It can be easy to forget a key ingredient to improving the health of women and children – men. But their involvement is often critical to a mother and baby thriving.
From family planning through birth preparedness, the evidence is clear: when fathers are supportive partners, mothers and children are healthier. We see this in higher rates of antenatal care attendance and facility births, and lower risk of postpartum depression. For children, a father’s presence is linked to better uptake of Kangaroo Mother Care and school completion, as well as higher self-esteem.
At MCSP, our ambitious aim to end preventable child and maternal deaths necessitates reaching all women and children with high-quality services. Yet, in many countries where we operate, men make all health care decisions for their families – including whether members have access to high-quality care at all.
Engaging men helps to prioritize maternal and child health needs. And it ends the belief that maternal health is the sole responsibility of women.
A joint UNICEF and WHO report released this week reflects the massive international efforts underway to bring us closer to a world in which every pregnancy is wanted and every birth celebrated. We do well to bring fathers, husbands and male community leaders along with us on this momentous journey!
Koki Agarwal, MD, MPH, DrPH