Masculinities in focus: how can the consideration of gender roles pave the way for gender-transformative healthcare services and improve health for all?
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Bielefeld University Germany
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A783
Background and objective:
How are men addressed by healthcare services? How is the role of men understood in the construction of gender-equitable health? Through a mixed-methods project on masculinities and health, we investigated the gender-transformative potential of reflecting on and taking into account gender roles in the design and implementation of healthcare services.

We conducted a systematic review on smoking cessations interventions for expecting and new parents, narrative interviews on the construction of masculinities in relation to family planning and contraception decisions, and a scoping review on masculinities and health in gender-transformative interventions.

With regard to smoking cessation (n=9 studies), we found that current healthcare structures tend to not engage specifically with fathers, and that men are forced into rather classic and passive gender roles that leave little room for change. Yet, in the interviews (n=13), we found that men consider their roles in reproductive health, contraception and family planning as complex and would like to take on more responsibility, be more proactive and engaged. This finding echoes the results of the scoping review (n=24 studies), which shows that a more critical approach to masculinity is possible and can lead to concrete and measurable improvements in health outcomes, especially in the fields of domestic violence, AIDS/HIV, sexual health and general well-being.

Not taking into account masculinities in the design and implementation of healthcare services appears as a missed opportunity that reinforces stereotypes and traditional gender roles. Although transfer from theory to practice on the one hand, and from lived experiences to interventions on the other hand, remains challenging, men themselves and a handful of promising and innovative approaches point toward the potential of gender-transformative healthcare services to improve health for all.

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