In the course of its existence, EngenderHealth has undergone changes in name and mission, reflecting internal debate, shifts in public policy, and changes in public opinion and international awareness. The organisation has been described as a prime example of how the modern US family planning movement was shaped by three overlapping but distinguishable social forces, i.e. the eugenics movement, the movement for (female) reproductive rights and the population control movement (Critchlow, 1995).
The organization was founded in 1937 as the Sterilization League of New Jersey (SLNJ) then renamed to Sterilization League For Human Betterment in 1943. Its name changed again to Birthright, Inc.: an educational nonprofit organization promoting "all reliable and scientific means for improving the biological stock of the human race." In 1950, Birthright was renamed the Human Betterment Association of America (HBAA).
After the Second World War, organizations and persons promoting eugenic sterilization were under pressure to change their advocacy. In the 1950s the organization's mission changed to focus on rights, choice, and voluntary action. It discarded its eugenics rationale and condemned compulsion (legislative or otherwise) for sterilization.
In 1962, the organization's name was changed to the Human Betterment Association for Voluntary Sterilization (HBAVS). Although the organization attracted a number of prominent scientists and activists, its influence soared in 1964 when Hugh Moore, the wealthy inventor of the Dixie Cup and noted supporter of population control, threw his influence and money behind the group. Apart from financial support, Moore served as president from 1964 to 1969. Under his presidency, in 1965, the HBAVS was renamed the Association for Voluntary Sterilization (AVS). In 1969, AVS funded the first vasectomy clinic in the United States.
In the early 1970s, AVS and its allies in the family planning movement launched an intensive campaign to promote sterilization. Concurrently, AVS launched—together with the ACLU and Zero Population Growth—"Operation Lawsuit": a series of successful lawsuits against various U.S. hospitals for refusing to comply with patients' requests for sterilization. These campaigns resulted in the increasingly widespread acceptance in the medical profession that sterilization was an effective birth control method, and that sterilization decision making was purely a matter between patients and their physicians. AVS also worked to establish the first informed consent and client-counseling components in health services and produced one of the first manuals on family planning counseling.
In the changing atmosphere of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the importance of population control and family planning in the Third World for U.S. foreign policy was being stressed, AVS became in 1972 for the first time the recipient of funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In its subsequent international activities, AVS became instrumental in the widespread acceptance and utilization of surgical sterilization. It is in large part due to its pioneering work that this is the most prevalent method of contraception worldwide.
In the early 1970s, AVS supported the work of surgeons who were developing a new approach to tubal ligation (female surgical sterilization) called "minilaparotomy", or "minilap." Prior to minilap, surgery for female sterilization often required women to remain in the hospital for up to a week. Minilap, however, could be performed under local anesthesia as an outpatient procedure, in basic health facilities without specialized equipment.
In the 1980s, AVS helped pioneer a new method of vasectomy called "no-scalpel vasectomy" (NSV), which had fewer complications and healed faster than traditional vasectomies, making it more attractive for men seeking sterilization. In 1985, AVS introduced the technique in the United States.
AVS was renamed the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception (AVSC) in 1984. The next year, the nonprofit published a landmark reference book, Voluntary Sterilization: An International Fact Book, a comprehensive source of information about contraceptive sterilization around the world. It included reviews of service delivery, usage trends, laws and policies, research gaps, and more. This was updated in 2002 as Contraceptive Sterilization: Global Issues and Trends.
AVSC launched an international postabortion care (PAC) program in 1993 to reduce injury and death among women who undergo unsafe abortions. Since then, the program has been introduced in more than 30 countries. (The organization has never provided abortions.)
The organization changed its name to AVSC International in 1994. In 1995, AVSC published COPE: A Process and Tools for Quality Improvement in Family Planning and Other Reproductive Health Services, the first of its COPE methodology books. Developed through work in Kenya and Nigeria in the late 1980s, the name means "Client-Oriented, Provider-Efficient", and is a process "[to help] health care staff continuously improve the quality and efficiency of services provided at their facility and make services more responsive to clients' needs." Since then, the COPE methodology has been expanded to many other health services and adapted by many other organizations.
In 1996, AVSC also launched its Men As Partners (MAP) program, working with men to promote gender equality, reduce gender-based violence, and recognize their important roles in the health of their families and communities. Since then, MAP has worked in more than 15 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Also in that year, AVSC introduced "facilitative supervision," an approach to quality improvement in health care service delivery. This methodology promotes "mentoring, joint problem solving, and two-way communication", and was formally described in the 2001 Facilitative Supervision Handbook.
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AVSC partnered with four other international agencies in 1999 to launch the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention (ACCP). Other partners include the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Jhpiego (an affiliate of the Johns Hopkins University), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH).
To reflect the fact that its mission had expanded beyond sterilization, in 2001 the organization changed its name to EngenderHealth, added the tagline "Improving Women's Health Worldwide," and introduced a new logo. It operates under this name today, although its logo and tagline changed in 2008.
In 2002, EngenderHealth was awarded the United Nations Population Award for institutions for its contribution to family planning and reproductive health care in resource-poor countries. In recognition of this honor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared July 1, 2002, as "EngenderHealth Day" in New York City, and presented a certificate to the organization. At the XVI International AIDS Conference in 2006, EngenderHealth was one of five finalists nominated for the Red Ribbon Award: Celebrating Community Leadership and Action on AIDS for its MAP work in South Africa to engage men in HIV and AIDS prevention and reducing gender-based violence.
With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), EngenderHealth became the managing partner of the large-scale ACQUIRE Project (which stood for "Access, Quality, and Use in Reproductive Health") in 2003. This global project worked in more than 20 countries around the world to improve family planning, maternal health, and postabortion care services. Other partners in the project included the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), CARE, IntraHealth International, Inc. Meridian Group International, Inc., the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa] , and SATELLIFE. As one of USAID's flagship projects in the field of family planning, the ACQUIRE Project developed new approaches to international family planning work that have since been adopted and extended by other USAID-funded projects.
Also in 2003, and also with funding from USAID, EngenderHealth became the managing partner of the AWARE-RH Project ("Action for West Africa Region -- Reproductive Health"), which worked with governments, donors, and private institutions to improve access to health services, lower the costs of health care, and strengthen existing medical institutions in 21 West African countries. Other partners in the project included Abt Associates] the Academy for Educational Development (AED), and Management Sciences for Health.
EngenderHealth's Men As Partners program continued to expand. EngenderHealth and Instituto Promundo founded the MenEngage Global Alliance, an international alliance to promote "research, advocacy, and interventions that encourage men and boys to increase gender equality." Today, MenEngage works around the world to raise awareness and support initiatives that reduce gender-based violence, with additional partnership from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Save the Children, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), the White Ribbon Campaign, Sonke Gender Justice, and several other organizations.
In 2006, in partnership with the Population Council, Ipas, Marie Stopes International, Willows Foundation, and the Ministry of Health in Ghana to launch the R3M Program: Reducing Maternal Morbidity and Mortality. The project supported family planning and long-term and permanent contraceptives in Ghana.
In 2008, on its 65th anniversary, EngenderHealth launched a new logo, visual identity, and tagline: "for a better life." It operates under this brand today.The nonprofit became the managing partner of The Fistula Care Project, funded by USAID. At the time, it was the largest international project ever to focus on the treatment and prevention of obstetric fistula.
The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) launched with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2011, management of the MHTF moved on to the Harvard School of Public Health Women and Health Initiative to continue its next phase.
The RESPOND Project launched with funding from USAID. Known as "Responding to the Need for Family Planning through Expanded Contraceptive Choices and Program Services" and works to "expand family planning services and improve reproductive health in developing countries".
In partnership with Family Health International and the University of Illinois at Chicago, EngenderHealth launched the Male Circumcision Consortium. The Consortium works to "improve and expand access to voluntary medical circumcision services in Kenya as part of an overall strategy to reduce HIV infections in men."
In 2009, EngenderHealth announced two new projects with USAID funding. The first was the CHAMPION Project, a five-year project in Tanzania, working with men to improve "serious reproductive health challenges" in Tanzania, including HIV and AIDS. The CHAMPION Project also received funding from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). A second USAID-funded project worked to expand HIV prevention services for the most at-risk population in urban areas of Ethiopia.
EngenderHealth was one of several nonprofits mentioned in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a best-selling book written by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn and published in September 2009. In support of the book, EngenderHealth published an online Reader's Companion with additional stories and resources, and partnered with Equality Now and Ashoka to co-host Accelerating Equality for Women and Girls Around the World, a discussion panel featuring the authors.Family planning, including: contraception; informed consent; rights; long-acting reversible contraception; vasectomy and sterilization; prevention of teenage pregnancy.
Maternal health, including: treatment and prevention of obstetric fistula; treatment and prevention of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia; treatment and prevention of postpartum hemorrhage; postabortion care; prevention of cervical cancer.
HIV and AIDS, including: prevention and treatment; the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV; male circumcision as a way to reduce HIV transmission; the reduction of stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals; integration of counseling/treatment services with other health services (particularly family planning services) .
Gender equality, including: reducing gender-based violence; getting men more involved in family planning decisions.
Quality improvement, including: training medical staff; improving efficiency within medical clinics; working with local and national leaders to improve availability of medical supplies.
Leadership:1937-1948/1951? Marian S. Norton (secretary)
1945-1961 H. Curtis Wood Jr (president)
1961-1963 Ruth Proskauer Smith (executive director)
1963-1972 John Rague (executive director)
1972-1973 Charles T. Faneuff (executive director)
1973-1981 Ira Lubell (executive director)
1981-1990 Hugo Hoogenboom (executive director)
1990-2005 Amy Pollack (president)
2005-2010 Ana Langer (president)
2010–2016 Pamela W. Barnes (president)
2016–present Ulla E. Muller (president)
Notable members:Margaret Sanger, birth control activist.
Robert Latou Dickinson, gynecologist and sex researcher.
Alan Frank Guttmacher, American physician.
Joseph Fletcher, pioneer in the field of bioethics.
John Rock, one of the inventors of the birth control pill.
Paul R. Ehrlich, entomologist and author on the subject of human overpopulation.
Brock Chisholm, first director-general of the World Health Organization and honorary president to the AVS in the early 1960s.
Paul Blanshard, American journalist.
Harry Emerson Fosdick, American clergyman.
Hugh Moore, American entrepreneur.
Isaac Asimov, author and professor of biochemistry.
Mary Dent Crisp, co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
Millicent H. Fenwick, Republican U.S. Representative from New Jersey and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.
Garrett Hardin, ecologist and microbiologist.
Abigail Van Buren, author of the "Dear Abby" syndicated personal advice column.
Edward P. Morgan, journalist and anchor of the ABC Evening News.
Allan G. Rosenfield, MD, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Nafis Sadik, MD, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General and former head of the UNFPA.
Janice Hansen Zakin, MD, associate at NASA Ames Research Center.
Brenda Jackson Drake, JD, director of the Public Health Trust.
Rosemary Ellis, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping magazine.
George F. Brown, former Vice President, International Programs, at the Population Council.
Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Mark Chiaviello, director at Standard Bank.
Jeffrey O'Malley, director at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).