We engage with partner countries to examine the influence that gender has on health outcomes and take appropriate action.
Gender inequality adversely affects health outcomes at individual, household, community, health system, and national levels.1 When we address context-specific gender inequalities at all societal levels, we maximize program effectiveness and improve maternal, newborn, and child health services, voluntary family planning, and reproductive health (MNCH/FP/RH) outcomes. We can accelerate improvements to MNCH/FP/RH care by understanding the influence of gender on health and well-being.
We engage with partner countries to examine the influence that gender has on project activities and health outcomes and take appropriate action. Such action includes identifying the inequities facing men and women and addressing gender-related issues that impact MNCH/FP/RH outcomes.
Build capacity to address gender-based barriers to optimal health
MOMENTUM enables health systems and partner institutions to recognize, design, and implement strategies and policies that address gender dynamics. In doing so, we help increase the demand for services and deliver sustainable, evidence-based, quality health care to women, their partners, and caregivers. We work with partners to recognize and consider the impact that lack of access to information and knowledge has on girls and women, particularly in their ability to make decisions about reproductive health care within and outside of their household. We also work with partners to support women’s economic empowerment. Women’s increased influence over financial decisions is associated with their improved use of preventive health care, nutritional status during pregnancy, and access to maternal health care and modern contraceptive methods.2
Examine how gender affects practices and participation
MOMENTUM collects, analyzes, and synthesizes data that capture gender-related factors that influence program outcomes, reveal gender differentials, and inform decisions to rectify gender inequities and improve health outcomes. Gender shapes beliefs and perceptions related to MNCH/FP/RH care and gender-based violence, particularly intimate partner violence. Public and private health care providers may hold beliefs and attitudes and uphold social norms that limit their ability to provide women with respectful, gender-competent, quality care. Additionally, gender norms influence what communities consider to be acceptable roles for women and men, a practice that often excludes men from engaging with reproductive, maternal, and child health care decisions. Men’s involvement, however, could improve their health as well as the health of women and children.
By recognizing how little control women have over their overall health and the health of their children, spouses, and community, MOMENTUM seeks to improve the coverage and quality of proven MNCH/FP/RH interventions. Women’s ability to make decisions and have access and control over resources correlates with optimal infant feeding practices, improved childhood nutrition, and overall lower rates of under-five mortality.3
Recognize the unique impact of gender inequality on female health care workers
Female health care workers face gender-based discrimination and abuse within the workplace, have minimal access to decision-making power and training opportunities, and are less likely to be in leadership and management positions. Gender beliefs limit women’s role in these health professions, and the gender inequality they face can lead to moral distress, burnout, and poor retention, all of which hinder quality, respectful care. Additionally, poor workplace conditions caused by gender inequalities contribute to mistreatment and disrespectful care, which deters women and girls from visiting health facilities for care.
To address these issues, MOMENTUM designs systems with gender issues in mind, strengthens the quality and reach of community health service delivery, and helps countries promote dignified and respectful MNCH/FP/RH care. We also work with countries to include gender indicators in monitoring, evaluation, and learning plans to ensure gender issues are addressed in health care programs.
- United Nations (UN) Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Gender Mainstreaming: An Overview (New York: UN, 2002); and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy (Washington, DC: USAID, 2012), https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1865/GenderEqualityPolicy_0.pdf.
- Judith Yargawa and Jo Leonardi-Bee, “Male Involvement and Maternal Health Outcomes: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Epidemiological Community Health 69 (2015): 604-12.
- Esther Richards et al., “Going Beyond the Surface: Gendered Intra-Household Bargaining as a Social Determinant of Child Health and Nutrition in Low and Middle Income Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 95 (2013): 24-33; and Lisa C. Smith et al., “The Importance of Women’s Status for Child Nutrition in Developing Countries,” Research Report Abstract (Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2003).