And quite predictably, even if they accompany their partners, they would be discouraged by the long queues and poor services offered in the public health facilities.
It is against this backdrop that a health organisation launched a project in Siaya County, in Bondo and Rarieda constituencies in particular, aimed at promoting maternal health and also involving men in maternal health matters.
In the project spearheaded by East Central and South African-Health Community (ECSA-Health Community), modern technology was used to promote health services.
In an interview with Reject on the findings of the two-year research, ECSA-Health Community Director of Reproductive Health, Dr Odongo Odiyo, stated that they initiated the research in 2012 to promote focus on antenatal care.
“The selection criterion was a woman who is pregnant for not more than 26weeks and should be her first time to be pregnant. A man was also required, could be her husband or a brother-in-law, who was able to share information with the partner,” Odiyo says.
The director revealed that the research targeted women because most of them have scarce resources and therefore were dependent on men for their upkeep. It also recognised the role played by men in households and noted that it was a very crucial component in the optimisation of maternal and child health.
“Men are the decision- makers in the family and play a big role on health care as far as determining family size, timing of pregnancies and whether women have access to healthcare or not,” he says.
According to experts, the involvement of men can help reduce maternal deaths by 75 percent globally by 2015.
“We found out that those women who own mobile phones came for a second, third and fourth visit unlike those who depended on their partners’ phones,” the director says.
That led to about 94 percent and 5 percent delivering in health facility and at home respectively. Meanwhile, the percentage of Ante-Natal Care (ANC) attendance in the 4th visit rose to 94 percent up from 48percent.
“It is regrettable that most women tend to go to the clinic on the first visit, but fail to attend second to fourth visits and even hospital delivery, which are important stages,” Odiyo says.
During the study, they noted that in the pilot areas where they had organised for special queues for couples, it ignited men’s interest in knowing their own health status.
Through the intervention of the programme, the director says, they contracted an ICT consultant who designed an automated short message service (sms).
The information system was designed in a way that it could send mass messages at once. For example, if someone wanted to know if she had a normal pregnancy, she could do that by pressing a certain number. Since then, this initiative has been appreciated globally.
Speaking during the unveiling of the project findings in Bondo, Dr Odiyo says that after the success of the project, they plan to scale it up to all the 10 member countries with a view of improving maternal and newborn care as well as post natal visits.
On his part, Bondo Medical Officer of Health (MOH), Dr Julius Oliech, says the project has enabled the district to register the highest number of ante-natal care saying that it was an eye opener to the Ministry of Health on what other innovations they can come up with to improve service delivery.
In the same spirit, Siaya County Director of Public Health and Sanitation, Dr Omondi Owino, revealed that they will ensure that maternity facilities in Siaya were well equipped and quality services provided to the public.
“We are going to purchase pregnancy testing kits which will be used by the community health workers in the area,” says Owino, with the aim of capturing the women and bringing them to the facilities on time.
This article was originally published on the Reject issue 97.