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Founded in 1969 by Rodney Shaw, a United Methodist Church minister, the Population Institute worked in the 1970's with state legislatures, revising laws that denied access to reproductive health care, as well as working to combat teenage pregnancies through innovative commercials, public personality endorsements, and sex education training. As a result of Shaw's vision and leadership, the Population Institute also became a recognized leader in educating policymakers and opinion leaders, both here and abroad, about the implications of rapid population growth and the benefits that flow from educating and providing voluntary family planning services to women of childbearing age who want to space or limit their pregnancies. The Institute also worked with the news media and the entertainment industry to help them address population and reproductive health issues in their programs.
Over the past four decades, the Population Institute has educated hundreds of legislators and parliamentarians; trained over 300 young professionals; recognized more than 200 editors, columnists, and journalists for their reporting on population related issues; and served as a leading voice on issues relating to population.
In February 2008, the Board of the Population Institute decided to reshape the leadership of the organization and redesign its program activities in order to enable it to be even more effective in addressing global population concerns. The outcome of this process was a decision to form a partnership with Population Media Center (PMC) and to name William Ryerson, PMC's founder and President, as President of the Population Institute.
The offices of the Population Institute are located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.