17 Feb 2020

Gender and MNCH: A Review of the Evidence

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
20 mins
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What you'll learn
Integrating gender and MNCH
  • Gender must be incorporated into maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) services
  • Includes examples of transformative approaches to address the structural norms that subject women to barriers to MNCH services
  • Further evidence is provided on the need to address the effect of norms on the healthcare sector, and how this serves as an obstacle for women both serving within and trying to access these MNCH resources
Gender impacts maternal and child health
Addressing the gaps

Many prior and current efforts focus on maternal and infant mortality outcomes, and while a great process has been made, gendered risk factors affect aspects of maternal and child health across one’s life course. Initiatives for certain populations like adolescents are sparse, as are gender-transformative programs for certain services such as post-partum family planning.

An elderly woman holds a baby in Indonesia.

By altering inequitable norms that shape and reinforce gender inequalities, transformative interventions have greater potential to catalyse sustainable shifts in behaviours and attitudes.

Key Takeaways
Adopt a life-course approach considering every stage of one's life
Adopt a life-course approach considering every stage of one's life

Gender plays an important role in MNCH services across one’s life course hence, mortality cannot be the only analysed outcome. In future MNCH planning, a life-course approach should be adopted, focusing on morbidity as well as mortality. Approaches should include participatory learning and aim to be gender-intentional, if not gender-transformative. Longitudinal measures resulting from these programs should also be collected, assessing more than just individual behavioural indicators.

Take a gender-transformative approach
Take a gender-transformative approach

MNCH programs should take a gender-transformative approach, to help tackle the structural issues that cascade to affect women’s access to, and outcomes in, MNCH.

Further evidence is needed to promote empowerment
Further evidence is needed to promote empowerment

Useful strategies may include participatory women’s groups and male engagement, but further evidence is needed to understand how to make these efforts empowering and gender transformative.

Apply a gender lens to health systems
Apply a gender lens to health systems

To best serve women within MNCH, a gender lens must be applied to the health system so that providers may provide optimal care and avoid attitudinal barriers against women receiving MNCH services.

Implement programmes targeted at adolescents
Implement programmes targeted at adolescents

There is a current lack of programming to serve adolescents, including both future mothers and fathers, which must be addressed.

A man holds and kisses his baby in Haiti.

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