Reducing maternal deaths by 75 percent throughout the world by 2015 will take the involvement of men in countries where it matters most. Many of the countries where USAID works are male dominated cultures. To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries, men must be equal partners since they are the decision makers about health care in the family. These decisions include determining family size, timings of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care.
In programs around the world, USAID works to integrate men into maternal health activities at the community level. One example is through USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). Special efforts are made to emphasize men’s shared responsibility and promote their active involvement in responsible parenthood, sexual and reproductive health. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups – entreaties that could be rejected because of traditional cultural values and perceptions that maternal health is the responsibility of women only.
In some areas of Nigeria— where a woman can’t leave the home without her husband’s permission— USAID sends in male motivators, community volunteers trained in communications, to help local men achieve their vision for a healthy family.
“In many of the countries where we work, these are male dominated cultures,” said Lily Kak, senior maternal and neonatal health advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health for a feature in Frontlines. “We need to involve men in our programs since they are the decision makers about health care in the family.” These decisions include determining family size, timing of pregnancies, and whether women have access to health care.
To improve maternal health outcomes for women in developing countries—one of the targets of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals—men must be equal partners. “Men need to see the advantages for themselves,” Kak said.