Rajesh Kumar Rai

2019 Winner

Position: Senior Research Scientist

Organization: Society for Health and Demographic Surveillance, West Bengal State Department of Health and Family Welfare

Current Location: India, Asia

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) from Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine-Hadassah, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Additional Degrees and Certifications:

Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.), Population Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences
Master of Arts (M.A.), Geography, University of Allahabad
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), University of Allahabad
Awards Received:

Travel Award
Awarding Organization:
Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and BkkbN, Indonesia
Date Awarded:
November 15, 2015

Travel Award
Awarding Organization:
International Union for the Scientific Study of Population
Date Awarded:
April 17, 2013

Young Scientist Best Research Paper Award
Awarding Organization:
Indian Association for Social Science and Health (IASSH)
Date Awarded:
March 7, 2010


Rajesh, an outstanding researcher in reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH), empirically demonstrated that focused intervention to change “intention” of using contraceptives may help achieve universal family planning uptake.

Anamitra Barik, Senior Medical Officer at West Bengal State Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India

Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

My contribution to family planning research focuses on determinants of “intention” of contraceptive use in developing countries. My several published research papers on this issue have empirically demonstrated that intervention to alter “intention” for contraceptive use could increase coverage of family planning uptake, which in turn can improve reproductive maternal newborn and child health (RMNCH) indicators. My research findings were applauded by researchers and I was invited to various international conferences to share my research to global audiences. Currently, I lead a team of 60 researchers that is actively surveying rural communities in India to understand the public health needs of marginalized households to recommend state policy that affects several aspects of family planning.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

My passion for family planning was sown through my experiences growing up in a village in northern India, where I saw large families struggling to meet their day-to-day needs, often taking the greatest toll on women and young girls. I put this passion into my training in Demography and Public Health, which not only cultivated my research and analytical skills, but taught me how contraceptive access and family planning knowledge could transform not just families, but communities and countries.

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:

My family planning research has been recognized in several national and international fora, including being awarded the “Young Scientist Best Research Paper Award” by IASSH in 2010. At the Society for Health and Demographic Surveillance, I have led multiple research initiatives to inform family planning agenda for the West Bengal State Department of Health and Family Welfare. I have over 100 research publications on global health (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Rajesh+Kumar+Rai).

If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work? 

If I win, this platform will help me connect to a global community of family planning researchers and policy makers with an interest and expertise to design an intervention to improve family planning uptake in developing countries. With their help, I will invest my prize money to run an intervention in India to examine how current behavior of contraceptive use predicts future contraceptive use pattern.

Photos of the nominee in the field/at work: