An important yet often overlooked strategy in the effort to improve the wellness of families is engaging fathers in family health from their partners’ pregnancy through delivery and beyond. Through a pilot health education project underway in Nyanza, Eastern (South) and Central Provinces in Kenya, ICAP aims to involve men in the care and support of their pregnant partners and newborns with the goal of improving family health outcomes.
Egemesha Wanawake Wetu (Kiswahili for “Support Our Women”) is a community-based intervention designed to help expecting fathers develop their knowledge and skills to take care of their families and themselves. ICAP is collaborating with health providers and community health workers to carry out an on-going community sensitization campaign and disseminate education and communication materials that reinforce the project goal. Participants in the group are identified through their pregnant partner and invited by a maternal-child health provider to join five monthly sessions led by a team of trained facilitators.
Key messages about a father’s supportive role, antenatal and postnatal care, hospital delivery, nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding, and HIV testing, prevention, and care are explored during the group sessions that use participatory exercises and active discussions to engage men in their learning. The importance of HIV testing, prevention and care is integrated throughout these sessions and men are encouraged to know their HIV status to protect themselves, their partner, and their baby. For men who are HIV-infected or have an HIV-infected partner, coordinated ICAP-supported services are available through the health facility to ensure prompt HIV care and treatment, as well as prevention treatment for mother-to-child transmission.
“Men can be valuable advocates in their partner and baby’s health. We hope that this program helps participants to see the positive impact they can have not only on their health, but the health of their family,” said Mark Hawken, ICAP Country Director in Kenya.