Taraneh Salke, MPH: Alumni Making a Difference in Public Health

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Influencing National Health Programming in Afghanistan

Taraneh Salke (MPH ‘03) is the founder and Executive Director of Family Health Alliance (FHA), a non-profit health development organization working towards supporting women's health in resource poor contexts. Taraneh pioneered a program in Afghanistan that focuses on male-involvement in advocacy for maternal health and family planning, recognizing that care for women is a shared responsibility. Her work in Afghanistan influenced women's health policy at the national level, leading to the replication of her program across the country.

Taraneh Salke began her work in Afghanistan in 2003 as a consultant on increasing women's access to services. In 2005, after establishing FHA, she designed a program for reducing maternal mortality by training female health professionals on family planning and reproductive health.

As a trained cultural anthropologist, in her interactions with local Afghans she recognized how community life functions. She learned that in order to effectively address high maternal mortality, she would need to include men, traditionally the household decision-makers in Afghanistan. In 2007, Taraneh began the Male Involvement in Family Planning Program through FHA.

This program trained male health providers to promote and expand family planning and contraceptive use among their male patients in rural areas. Informing and educating these men on the importance of family planning in reduction of maternal mortality laid the groundwork for them to disseminate the information to rural Afghan men, which ultimately facilitates women’s access to vital health services. Many of the health providers trained had never received any family planning education or training.

Over time, Taraneh worked to bring key stakeholders on board: government officials, international donors, and local NGOs, among others. After completing two pilot projects of the Male Involvement in Family Planning Program, Taraneh was able to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness to the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health, which in turn became a partner in future programs and adopted Taraneh's model as a part of its national program for women's health.


  • The Male Involvement in Family Planning Program has been scaled up and has become part of the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health’s National Strategic Plan. FHA's model is being replicated throughout Afghanistan.
  • To date, the program spearheaded by Taraneh has trained over 200 male doctors/nurses from 15 different provinces and has provided family planning information and counseling to over 15,000 men in rural areas.
  • The Ministry of Public Health also adapted her organization’s manuals and handbooks to use for a national training of trainers programs.
  • “My work acknowledges something that many international organizations were not able to recognize. While most people dismissed Afghan men's ability to contribute to women's health; I saw that they were willing partners to help advocate for the health of mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and children in their communities. I believe that this work helps transcend the distance of culture in concrete ways that make a difference in the lives of women”, says Taraneh.