Men play a key role in the family such as providing support in the upkeep of their partners’ reproductive health in Nigeria. Their involvement in reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) is crucial. Their involvement could better contribute to improved health outcomes when factors responsible for the undesirable outcomes are addressed viz: culture, religion, poor education, and other socio-economic factors. It has been observed that men’s involvement in RMNCH is a promising strategy for reducing maternal morbidity and mortality and should be greatly encouraged.
Women (whose health concerns are central in the maternal and child health conversation) have some responsibility themselves to discharge. Availing themselves of proper health checks both during and post-pregnancy, and accessing other necessary health services are key to maintaining sound reproductive and overall health. On the part of their children, both parents have the role of ensuring that their children get the requisite immunisation at 1-2 years of age such as the Tuberculosis vaccine (BCG vaccine), Hepatitis B vaccine, Polio vaccine, and Measles vaccine (MCV1). This would ensure that children would develop and possess the necessary resistance to these diseases thereby improving their overall health.
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Male involvement in maternal health care (MHC) has been described as a process of social and behavioral change that is needed for men to play more responsible roles to ensure women’s and children’s utmost wellbeing. Indeed, the value of direct male involvement in reducing maternal mortality cannot be overestimated. As it pertains to the global goals on healthcare, the Sustainable Development Goals 3 (SDG 3) stated the global commitment to promoting healthcare by ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages. Actualizing the numerous targets under this goal requires the efforts of both men and women.
It is perceived in some quarters that there is room for improvement on the part of men’s involvement in maternal and child health. Various socio-demographic factors are responsible for this including partner’s education, type of marriage, and the number of children. Others are enabling/disenabling factors such as distance to the health care facilities, attitude of health workers, prohibitive cultural norms, unfavorable health policies, and gender roles. These issues need addressing in improving health care in general.
In conclusion, there is a need for urgent interventions to scale up the contribution to ensuring sound health care. Public health interventions should focus on designing messages bearing in mind the variety of sociodemographic and enabling/disenabling factors.
Samuel Julius is of the Centre for Social Justice in Abuja