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Chelsea Polis

Chelsea Polis - 2016 Nominee
Position: Senior Research Scientist
Organization: Guttmacher Institute and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Chelsea's outstanding research on the safety of contraception for HIV-infected women and on the association between hormonal contraception and HIV acquisition has had international policy impact. – Ronald Gray, Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University
It's one thing to be a researcher, and other to be advocate, but Chelsea deftly uses the power of social media to amplify truth and directly confront misinformation and its perpetuators with science. – Scott Fabricant, Dr. at Suffolk County Community College
Chelsea Polis advocates, conducts research and informs policies to making quality but affordable family planning services’ access to women from underserved and hard to reach areas of Sub-saharan Africa. – Nominator
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I am an epidemiologist working towards improved global sexual and reproductive health, in areas including contraception, HIV, abortion, multipurpose prevention technologies, infertility, & more. I have particular expertise on intersections between hormonal contraceptive methods and HIV-related risks, and contribute to developing global and national contraceptive guidance. I advocate for reliance on high-quality scientific research, particularly when considering controversial issues in public health.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

I view the ability for women & couples to be empowered to choose the number, timing, & spacing of their pregnancies as fundamental to the well-being of individuals and communities. Many people, places, and experiences sparked & nurtured my passion for this work! I am inspired by how robust scientific evidence can help stakeholders move past conflicting ideologies, and be brought to bear on policy-relevant issues, in order to improve & save lives.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

Utilization of scientific evidence often brings communications-related challenges. People don't always know what evidence is available or relevant to their goals, & may not know how to evaluate quality or assess trustworthiness of data. My heart is in *conducting* research, but recently I've been trying to improve on *communicating* about research to lay audiences, to enhance impact. For example, I've been blogging about epidemiological & other scientific issues!

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

I live in the United States and certainly see many challenges to family planning in my own backyard. However, most of my work has an international focus, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Mobilizing the resources and political will to support effective family planning programming is an ongoing challenge. We need to keep raising our voices to emphasize the critical nature of access to FP, and of course, we need to continue backing up our demands with robust evidence.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I want to continue strengthening my skills as a producer of science, and an effective communicator of science - and to bring those skills to bear on pressing scientific conundrums in reproductive health. I want to use the privileges I have to help amplify the voices of individuals with less access and reach, and learn to be an effective mentor to young people interested in contributing to this incredibly exciting and dynamic field. And I plan to have lots of fun doing it!

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