Male engagement in maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) is a promising strategy to improve MNCH and gender equality outcomes. There has been an upswell of interest in male engagement in MNCH which is currently being promoted and adopted at the global, national and subnational levels through policy and program planning. Yet the direct links between male engagement and MNCH outcomes have not been well documented in the global literature. A recent systematic review found quality evidence for the impact of male engagement interventions on MNCH outcomes, including care-seeking outcomes, was low.1 In this context, there is a need to improve understanding of the relationship between male engagement and MNCH outcomes.
A multi-country, primary qualitative research study was conducted of two existing Plan Canada supported MNCH programs with male engagement components – Women and Their Children’s Health (WATCH) and Wazazi na Mwana – that are currently being implemented in Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The study investigated the relationship between male engagement and MNCH outcomes as well as effective strategies to engage men in MNCH and factors to sustain male engagement in MNCH.
Male and female participants identified many benefits associated with male engagement in MNCH, including improved health outcomes for women, newborns and children as well as increased couple communication and improved relationships, reduced maternal workload and increased maternal nutrition and rest during pregnancy, and increased value of girl children. Both male and female participants also reported that they valued male engagement in MNCH, although some participants did not desire men’s participation in some tasks.
In addition to the overarching findings from this research, the findings of this study have confirmed and added to, several elements of good practice in male engagement programming that have been recognized in previous literature on this topic. These implications for good practice can usefully guide policymakers and program planners who aim to increase male engagement in MNCH.