Another "M" IN MCH?
By Mike R. Fraser, PhD
"Are you at the right meeting?" she asked me earnestly.
"I think so," I replied. "Is this the women's health meeting?"
"Yes," she said. "I am sorry, I just wasn't expecting a man. You are definitely going to be in the minority."
We laughed. "I am used to it," I said. "Don't worry. There are a few of us who can deal with this stuff."
We laughed some more and took our places at the meeting room table. Being a man and working in maternal and child health is full of these kinds of stories. Because this issue of Pulse focuses on male involvement and strategies to bring another "M" (men) into MCH, I thought it would be fitting to start with just one of the many times people have been surprised to see yours truly in the room during an MCH meeting and even more surprised to see men actively advocating for increases to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and other MCH programs. I must admit it is quite a sight to see Brent Ewig, Josh Brown, and me sitting in a senator's office talking to a female staffer and touting the importance of women's health and the need to support the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant!
But should it be surprising? One astute AMCHP member recently wrote us and said "men are half of the reproductive process, shouldn't we be doing more to include them?" The member definitely got me thinking more about what AMCHP could do to support state efforts to engage more men in maternal and child health programs. That is why I am so glad this month's Pulse is focusing on this issue.
What are some of the benefits of adding another M to MCH? As we look to improve and promote the health of women, children, and families we should answer these questions for our state programs. Men are indeed half of the reproductive equation so bringing men into family planning and reproductive health programs is important. We also know that programs to educate young men about sexual decision making, family planning and parenthood, violence prevention, and overall health do have an impact on reducing poor health outcomes and help build strong families. The focus of male involvement has been trying to get men in MCH programs but part of our strategy should be to step back and understand the myriad reasons why men aren't there in the first place and work through the issues that keep men from participating in healthy decision-making across the lifespan. This is a different approach for many MCH programs but an important one. I was recently in a state that had renamed their MCH program to include fathers in their title. That sends a strong message that men's issues should be included in discussions of maternal and child health.
There is a wonderful Chinese proverb that states "women hold up half the sky." In MCH, women certainly do much more than half of the things that keep families healthy. Imagine the improvements in health we could see if we got more men involved in the health of mothers, children and families. As you read this issue of Pulse, please think about how AMCHP can help states involve more men in MCH and let us know what we could be doing to promote male involvement in your programs at the state and local levels.