PATH has worked with countries and partners to advance sexual and reproductive health (SRH) for more than four decades. As part of our commitment to health equity, this work prioritizes equitable access to accurate and relevant information, technologies, and high-quality services for all people and communities.
To help drive this work, PATH is delighted to welcome Ashley Jackson, MPH, as our new SRH Team Lead within PATH’s global Primary Health Care program. We sat down with Ashley to learn more about her background and what she’s most excited about in her new role addressing SRH equity gaps, ensuring project quality, and deepening respectful partnerships in the countries where PATH works.
Q: You’ve worked in SRH for many years now. What motivated you to work in this field?
My interest in SRH began with my own experience as a young person seeking services in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. It grew deeper during time I spent living in Benin, Cameroon, Kenya, and Tanzania, where I conducted research with youth. As part of this research, I interviewed adolescents and newly married youth who helped me better understand some of the complex gender and power dynamics that affect SRH access and choices in their communities.
Traveling in rural areas gave me an appreciation for the immense challenges of delivering SRH care in communities far from health facilities. Working with local experts in health communication and service delivery showed me how much creativity and perseverance their jobs required, especially without sufficient funding and data.
I also saw the far-reaching, positive effects of SRH access and support: individuals and couples planning their lives, mothers and children maintaining good health, adolescents staying in school, and young people pursuing work of their choice.
Q: Is there anyone whose work has inspired you?
From youth leaders, community health workers, and researchers to ministry of health officials and more, I’ve met so many extraordinary experts and advocates over the course of my career.
One of my inspirations is Fiona Walugembe, who leads PATH’s work in Uganda to increase access to the all-in-one, self-injectable contraceptive DMPA-SC.* In the years before I came to PATH, I saw Fiona speak at different conferences and learned from her thought leadership. She is a dedicated SRH champion, a creative and collaborative problem-solver, and a trusted partner of the Uganda Ministry of Health.
For nearly nine years, Fiona has collaborated with others in Uganda to generate and share evidence that has informed investments, national guidelines, and policy changes to make self-injectable contraception available as part of a broad range of method options. I’m especially interested in her approach to using human-centered design to support scalable models of SRH self-care that respond to clients’ needs and preferences.
I’m thrilled that I’ll now have the chance to work closely with Fiona and other SRH team members around the world.
Q. What are you most proud to have achieved in your career?
A highlight of my career was leading USAID’s global Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options (EECO) project over the past four years. The project conducts market research and pilot introductions to understand if and how new products, such as the Caya diaphragm developed by PATH, might fill gaps in the mix of contraceptive method choices.
As part of the Hormonal IUD Access Group, my EECO colleagues and I contributed to a shared global learning agenda to understand the potential for adding the hormonal IUD to a broad range of contraceptive method choices. Coordinating across projects and countries, the group generated evidence on hormonal IUD demand, service delivery, and cost-effectiveness that contributed to three key decisions in 2021: Bayer and Medicines360 dramatically reduced procurement prices of hormonal IUD products to historically low levels, USAID and UNFPA added hormonal IUDs to their product catalogs for the first time, and ministries of health in several countries launched plans to scale up access to the method nationally.
These milestones bring us to a critical juncture, when hormonal IUD access may take off or falter. In my new role at PATH, I hope to contribute to the exchange of learning between hormonal IUD partners, the DMPA-SC Access Collaborative led by PATH in partnership with JSI, and others, with the goal of expanding contraceptive method choice at scale.
Q. What are you most excited about as you start this new role?
PATH partners with local organizations and communities to co-create, study, and scale approaches that close gaps in health equity. I’m eager to support this unique approach as part of PATH’s overall efforts to advance evidence-based decision-making in global health. I also appreciate PATH’s commitment to investing in systems, not silos. Integrating SRH within primary health care strengthens health systems and lowers costs of care. I’m excited to collaborate across PATH health areas and functions, across mixed health systems, with governments and civil society to accelerate progress toward this vision.
*DMPA-SC: Subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate.