SERVICE DELIVERY

DOLLARMAN FATINATO: Address gender norms to strengthen health systems

They are key determinants and either influence health outcomes negatively or positively

In Summary

•Studies have revealed that the most sustainable way of strengthening health systems is by addressing gender determinants of health.

•Universal access to reproductive health care should be an element in all efforts to strengthen service delivery systems.

Gender encompasses culture, beliefs, traditions, political and legal structures, community interactions, resource allocation, and power, all related to the aspect of being male or female

Gender norms are key determinants of health as they can either positively or negatively influence health outcomes. 

In many instances, contraception has been gendered to be a women's issue, thus many feel the need not to support child spacing and a reproductive health responsibility of conceiving when ready.

In some cultures, wife inheritance and polygamy are highly encouraged with an added disadvantage to women especially in cases where the man makes all sexual health decisions.

This has led to increased HIV infections in marriage with 83.6 per cent of HIV-infected Kenyans married or cohabitating couples.

Those most affected are women who, the community has shaped their behaviours to be sexually inexperienced and to accept that men make health decisions such as whether to use a condom promoting promiscuity among men.

It’s a gender issue when women incur more out-of-pocket expenditure than men.

This is, in part, attributed to women’s specific health needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, contraception, and abortion, amongst sexual and reproductive health.    

Actively promoting gender equality in addressing the social and gender determinants of health from tender to old age can reduce inequalities as health systems become more responsive, fair, and accessible to women, men, boys, and girls and accelerate the drive towards the country’s ambitious goal of realizing universal health coverage for all in Kenya.

This means ensuring fairness and justice in health systems in the distribution of benefits, power, resources, and responsibilities between women and men.

Achieving this principle means recognizing that women and men have different needs, power, and access to resources.

Taking specific action to eliminate these differences leads to greater health and wellbeing.

Studies have revealed that the most sustainable way of strengthening health systems is by addressing gender determinants of health, the gender factors at work in the health system, and the resulting gender inequalities.

Among legal and policy realignments in Kenya are the amendments to the National Hospital Insurance Fund Bill 2021 currently in parliament in a bid to model the program as the main vehicle for Universal Health Coverage.

Policymakers and shapers must now pay explicit attention to gender about health.

Medical advances across the world have made it possible to address women’s reproductive risks with high-quality reproductive health care, yet many women in Kenya still lack access to basic primary health care treatment. 

Universal access to reproductive health care should be an element in all efforts to strengthen service delivery systems.

The most feasible strategy for reducing unfairness and preventable gender inequalities within health systems is ensuring that men and women have equal access to information, service, and commodities including vaccines they need, to realize their potential.

The county governments should step up and ensure that the budgets under the pillar of health being developed are informed by and account for the specific health needs of end-users thus women, men, girls, boys, and intersex.

Project Assistant at Centre for the Study of Adolescence

 

Edited by Kiilu Damaris