Where Do Men Fit In Women’s Health Care?

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Sunday is Father’s Day, and I find myself reflecting on where men fit in women’s health care. A few months ago, I attended a consortium of professionals working on a women’s reproductive health advocacy agenda. At one point, I (quietly) mentioned that perhaps maternal-child health should be called family health, so men are included and was (quietly, but firmly) shut down by the woman sitting on my right.

I was left wondering if I am too old to do this work? Or perhaps, have I softened with age and lost my ardent feminism, or is it that I have been around long enough to believe that including men does not take away from women?

I have been working in women’s reproductive health since before abortion was legal and the pill was readily available. I was providing clinical work when the debates over Title X dollars being used for men began, and I took advantage by adding male services to my public health clinics; no loss to women occurred (in all fairness, neither did we see a surge of men coming in, but some did and mostly with their female partners). I have kept up with the research that supports the positive role of men in family planning, healthy pregnancies, and birth outcomes, and I have formed some opinions as I have watched the field unfold over the past 40 years, and this I know—fathers matter, men matter, and excluding them is not good public health.

Perhaps you think differently, and I love a good debate. So please tell me what you think? Am I older and wiser, or just older? How can we continue to blame men for unplanned pregnancies and being absentee fathers if we don’t address their needs?

How can we better support men’s role in women’s reproductive health?

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH, is the President/CEO of Healthy Teen Network.

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