Health care providers’ perspectives on delivering gender equity focused family planning program for young married couples in a cluster randomized controlled trial in rural Maharashtra, India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: There is increasing programming and research on male engagement and gender-equity (GE) counselling in family planning (FP) services. However, there is a lack of data on healthcare provider’s perspectives on delivering these interventions. The objective of the paper is to present providers’ perspectives on delivering a GE-focused FP intervention, CHARM, to married couples in rural India. Methods: In-depth interviews were carried out with 22 male village health care providers who were delivering a GE-focused FP intervention, CHARM, to 428 husbands (247 couples) rural Maharashtra, India. Providers were interviewed on their experiences and perspectives during delivery of CHARM. Major domains were identified during a thematic analysis. Results: Local male health providers are interested and can be engaged in delivering a GE-focused FP intervention. Providers believed that the CHARM intervention improves couples’ communication, contraceptive use and strengthened their own capacity to provide FP services in accordance with national FP programmatic efforts. Providers found the low-tech flipchart including pictures and information helpful in supporting their service provision. Providers reported some challenges including lack of privacy and space for counselling, limited access to contraceptive options beyond pill and condom, numerous myths and misconceptions about contraceptives. Providers also reported persistent social norms related to expectancy of pregnancy early in marriage, and son preference. Conclusions: Providers in rural areas with high fertility and related maternal health complications are interested in and can successfully implement a GE-focused FP intervention. Future efforts using this approach may benefit from greater focus to support broader array of spacing contraceptives particularly among first time parents, none or one child parents. There is a need to better support engagement of wives possibly through female provider led sessions parallel to male programs, i.e. gender synchronized rather than couples’ sessions.