What’s in a number?
That’s the question that Jacqueline Darroch found herself asking as an undergraduate student in New York City and then at university in Germany in the 1960s. A young woman from a blue-collar manufacturing town in western New York, she’d had few experiences outside of her community and planned on studying sociology or medicine. But as soon as she dug into her studies, everything changed.
She met people from every corner of the globe. She learned about population growth and poverty and their linked impacts on communities and lives of the people living in them, especially women and girls lacking information and access to life-saving reproductive health services and supplies. She turned to demography as a way to combine her analytic interests, real-world problems and research that could make a difference in people’s lives.
A number, she realized—and the trends and movements it suggests—could be the difference between reproductive rights for a select few and reproductive rights for all.
Becoming a demographer was never something young Jacqueline had planned on doing. But at university, she saw the gaps in the field of reproductive health data and set out to fill them. A number, she realized—and the trends and movements it suggests—could be the difference between reproductive rights for a select few and reproductive rights for all.
As a senior vice president and later a senior fellow at the Guttmacher Institute, Dr. Darroch uses numbers and data to paint the complex picture of inequity in reproductive health and studies how to change it. She co-authored Adding It Up, a landmark demographic report that has empowered communities with vital information and given policymakers the tools they need to effect change. Her accomplishments inspired the Guttmacher Institute to establish The Darroch Award for Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health Researchto recognize emerging leaders following in Dr. Darroch’s footsteps.
It was this profound, intuitive knowledge of the metrics that convinced Dr. Darroch of the importance of RH supplies and led her to act as the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition’s champion for initial funding – an extraordinary act of unqualified support for which Coalition members will long owe her a debt of gratitude.
The ability of women and men to have equitable access to reproductive health supplies, irrespective of their financial well-being. For many potential consumers, the cost of supplies has been a major, but not the only, barrier to accessing what they need and want for reproductive and sexual health. The need for equity also draws its inspiration from a rights-based approach to achieving better RH health.
Who’s Holding up Our Pillars?
This story is part of “Who’s Holding up Our Pillars?”, a Coalition effort to invite our heroes working in supply chains to tell their stories. Read their stories and see who they contribute to our vital, everyday work.