Chris Galvotti ’78E

Chris Galavotti ’78E has always focused on community support in her work. Today, as senior director of the Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health program at CARE USA, she helps communities around the world provide better support for women and babies.

Chris Calavotti Early in her career Galavotti worked with teens in foster care. This led her to a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in the emerging field of community psychology, which explores “how individuals in communities function and overcome challenges or mobilize to address issues,” she says, “and how communities and the environment and structural conditions shape, constrain, the choices people are able to make.” 

Next came a job developing anti-smoking interventions among Mexican-Americans in South Texas, followed by 22 years at the Centers for Disease Control, where Galavotti led an initiative in several African countries to encourage prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS through radio soap opera narratives. (See “Hope on the Air” in Amherst’s Spring 2002 issue.) 

There are huge numbers of refugees who have no access to contraception.

In 2010 she joined CARE, a nonprofit that runs 890 projects in 95 countries. Fifty-one of those countries—mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America—have programs related to CARE’s Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health initiative. “There are so many women dying in childbirth in the developing world,” she says. “There are huge numbers of refugees who have no access to contraception, no access to safe delivery services, newborn care.” With a 15-person team based in Atlanta and many international team members and stakeholders, Galavotti works to empower communities to change all that.

In crisis-affected parts of Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, CARE has helped more than 82,000 clients access and use contraceptives. For the mostly young and female garment workers around Dhaka, Bangladesh, Galavotti says, CARE is working with retailer Marks & Spencer and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to bring doctors’ services directly into factories, along with classes and demonstrations on birth control, breastfeeding and hand washing.

Among the most important and promising CARE efforts, Galavotti says, is its work to help citizens hold service providers accountable. She points to the Community Score Card process developed by CARE Malawi, through which CARE facilitates discussions among community members and health service providers about the issues and challenges they face. Each side assigns scores from 0 to 100 on various factors—such as “Relationships Between Clients and Providers”—and then they come together to identify steps to solve problems and increase the scores. 

Taking a page from the tech world, Galavotti’s team is now developing an “accelerator” program: they’ll figure out how to replicate and adapt their most successful projects, to bring them into yet more communities in need.