The Population Institute was founded by Rodney Shaw, a Methodist minister, in 1969. Under his visionary leadership, the Population Institute worked in the 1970’s to ensure that governments at all levels—federal, state, and local–would commit to improving access to family planning and reproductive health care in the U.S. The Institute also worked vigorously to educate policymakers, the media and the general public about the crucial importance of expanding access to family planning and reproductive services in the developing world.
In addition to its work on public policy, the Institute enlisted the support of the entertainment community in striving to advance public understanding of, and support for, reproductive health and rights. As part of that effort, the Institute helped to pioneer the use of radio and television serial dramas—and other forms of entertainment education—as a vehicle for improving public understanding and acceptance of family planning.
In 1980, recognizing the significant progress that had been made in the U.S., the Institute’s board of directors voted to focus the organization’s efforts on improving access to family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. In 2011, however, the Institute responding to the escalating assault on family planning and reproductive rights in the U.S., recommitted itself to supporting sexual and reproductive rights at home.
Today, as it did in its early years, the Institute is working both domestically and overseas to ensure universal access to family planning and reproductive health services. As part of that effort, the Institute has put increased emphasis on the need to promote sexual rights and gender equality, particularly in the developing world, where child marriage practices, sexual violence, and the failure to educate girls are contributing to high fertility, perpetuating poverty, and limiting the potential of girls and women. The Institute also works to promote public understanding of, and support for, environmental sustainability.
While the Institute is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, since 2008 it has proudly served as an affiliate of the Population Media Center (PMC). Based in Burlington, Vermont, PMC is a recognized leader in entertainment education. PMC sponsored serial dramas, both radio and television, have aired in more than three dozen countries, including the U.S., and have reached an audience totaling more than 500 million people. PMC serial dramas, which have a proven track record of success, have helped to promote use of family planning, advance the cause of gender equality, and protect the environment.