Report Conveys Importance of Gender Measures in Health Programming in Africa

In its Millennium Campaign, the United Nations stresses the importance of gender equity, child health and maternal health to ending worldwide poverty. However, most studies exploring the relationship between gender measures and health outcomes for women and children have neglected sub-Saharan Africa, even though Africa itself accounts for 58 percent of maternal deaths and 51 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5. In a recently released technical report, “Influence of Gender Measures on Maternal and Child Health in Africa,” written by Kavita Singh, Shelah Bloom and Paul Brodish, MEASURE Evaluation sought to fill this research gap.

In its Millennium Campaign, the United Nations stresses the importance of gender equity, child health and maternal health to ending worldwide poverty. However, most studies exploring the relationship between gender measures and health outcomes for women and children have neglected sub-Saharan Africa, even though Africa itself accounts for 58 percent of maternal deaths and 51 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5. In a recently released technical report, “Influence of Gender Measures on Maternal and Child Health in Africa,” written by Kavita Singh, Shelah Bloom and Paul Brodish, MEASURE Evaluation sought to fill this research gap.

“We have seen that health outcomes are affected by social inequalities, including those relating to gender,” said Singh, the report’s lead writer. “And we wanted to look at the role of gender measures on health outcomes for women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The report focused on a diverse set of eight African countries – Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia – for which pertinent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data was available. Singh and her fellow researchers looked at the association between gender measures, such as household and financial decision making, social acceptance of wife beating and the right for a woman to refuse sex with her husband, and four health outcomes – facility delivery, low body mass index, full immunization of children and treatment of young children for acute respiratory infections.

“The most compelling thing we found,” Singh said, “was that even after controlling for education and wealth, gender measures are significantly associated with these outcomes. This tells us that in addition to focusing on poverty and education programs, there is great potential for focusing on equality measures to improve health outcomes.”

Shelah Bloom, who co-authored the report and serves as Senior Gender Advisor at MEASURE Evaluation and the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also emphasized the important policy and program implications of the report:

“There is a new global push to address structural factors such as gender norms in health programming in policy, particularly in the area of HIV/AIDS. This report provides evidence to support the importance of considering gender in other health programming in Africa."

Download “Influence of Gender Measures on Maternal and Child Health in Africa.”