Gender integration in quality improvement: Increasing access to health services for women in rural Mali
Anemia is one of the leading contributors to infant and maternal mortality and morbidity in Mali. The causes of anemia are many and complex, but are influenced by social norms and cultural beliefs as well as lack of access to health and social services. It is in this context that USAID, through the USAID ASSIST Project in Mali, is supporting sites and communities in the Bougouni Health District in the Sikasso Region to reduce the incidence of anemia among pregnant women and children under five years old. This case study describes how addressing gender-related issues contributed to anemia prevention at the community level.
Community committees were formed, supported, and coached regularly to find ways to prevent anemia and get more pregnant women and children into care to address suspected anemia. After identifying and considering gender issues affecting anemia, community committees developed change ideas to address those issues and improve access to health care and land. The committees drew on members of women’s groups as well as male health workers and community agents to conduct outreach activities targeting mothers-in-law and husbands for education on the importance of pregnant women attending antenatal services during their first trimester. In addition, these community committees successfully advocated for village leaders to set aside land to grow iron-rich foods for pregnant women and children at risk of anemia. The different change ideas tested by committees translated into a 72% increase in the rate of prenatal consultation in the first trimester of pregnancy within 12 months, and the acquisition of about half a hectare of land by community groups to cultivate foods rich in iron and vitamin A for pregnant women and children under five.
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