Here's How the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Is Fighting Teen Pregnancy

In news that should surprise no one, an increase in teenagers' access to contraception decreases rates of teenage pregnancy. From a public policy perspective, it stands to reason that making contraception more available to teens — particularly those at greater risk of becoming pregnant — would further lower teen pregnancy rates. This outcome would be good from a public health perspective because teen pregnancy is, well, a major (and avoidable) health and financial risk for pretty much everyone it affects.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a diversified philanthropic giant with some $1.6 billion in assets, recently granted more than $2.6 million over three years to the public-private Fund for Public Health, based in New York City. The fund, as its website helpfully explains, "is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization that was formed by the NYC Health Department to enable foundations, philanthropists, businesses and ordinary citizens to become the strategic partners of city government." Essentially, the Fund for Public Health conceives of projects to promote public health in New York City and finds sources, both public and private, to finance its vision. (See Doris Duke Charitable Foundation: Grants for Public Health.)

With the money from Doris Duke, the Fund for Public Health will make contraception more accessible for teens and foster youth at public schools in New York City. Components of the $2.6 million project include expanding in-school availability of reproductive health-care services, creating new school-based health clinics with on-site nurse practitioners who can provide immediate access to contraception (including emergency contraception), coordinating with city officials to target services especially for teens in foster care, and hiring a public health rock star to run the whole thing.

This particular grant falls into Doris Duke's broadly defined child abuse prevention funding category, which is one of two health-related funding areas (along with medical research) at the foundation. Doris Duke's grants are not numerous, but they are large. The smallest of Doris Duke's seven grants for child abuse prevention was worth $200,000, and the foundation's medical research grants in 2012 all were in the millions of dollars (granted, these millions were distributed across individual researchers and projects). In the public health area of child abuse prevention, it appears that the Doris Duke Foundation has a preference for funding a few organizations that, like their benefactor, are large and established. Besides the Fund for Public Health, other recipients of child abuse prevention dollars include the Boston Medical Center and Columbia University.

Doris Duke typically invites grantees to apply for child abuse prevention/public health funding, and as of the writing of this post, it is not accepting unsolicited applications for support. Grantseekers may submit a letter of inquiry, however, since the foundation won't be running out of money or a need to invest it in child abuse prevention projects anytime soon.