Honduras: Involving Male Partners to Support Improved Women’s and Family Health

{Photo credit: Todd Shapera}Photo credit: Todd Shapera

In Southern Honduras, men in remote communities are learning the value of maternal and reproductive health and family planning.

The USAID-funded Local Technical Assistance Unit for Health (ULAT) project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), is providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health to train and provide ongoing support to community health agents on the Joint Implementation of Community Strategies (known as ICEC in Spanish), a series of community-level health interventions, including for improving perinatal care for women living in the most remote rural areas. The gender perspective in these trainings and approaches encourages active and mindful male partner participation in support of their female partners, their families, and themselves.

“We are seeing the greatest success with a strategy we are implementing for prenatal care,” says Dr.  José Ernesto Maradiaga, an enthusiastic facilitator on gender issues at one of the integrated health networks in remote communities in Choluteca, Honduras. “We are promoting the use of ultrasounds during the last trimester of pregnancy for women in remote areas free of charge or at minimal cost. We invite the men to see the baby in the womb, which impresses them. Many women who used to come by themselves are now accompanied by their partner.”

Every health services network visited commented on increased participation and motivation of men caring for their partners when they learn about the rights of women and need for equal opportunity in health care.

[After attending a prenatal visit with his wife, a man waits for a health consultation and checkup.] {Photo credit: MSH staff}After attending a prenatal visit with his wife, a man waits for a health consultation and checkup.Photo credit: MSH staffSays Maradiaga: “We are grateful to the USAID/ULAT project for supporting us with training for the community agents. There are obvious changes in the men’s attitude and we can see their concern in accompanying their partners.”

At the same time, the community agents provide counseling to the men regarding prostate problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and family planning, and offer services that are beneficial for the men’s health, too.  “The detection of prostate problems has increased in men referred by community agents trained on gender issues,” says Maradiaga.

Sonia Rivera, a nurse in remote areas of Choluteca says: “Before, men did not know what a vasectomy was, never mind asking about where they could have it done! Now, some do. And we explain everything to them and make sure their questions are answered, so that in the future, more men come in.”