Mobilizing male opinion leaders' support for family planning to improve maternal health: a theory-based qualitative study from Pakistan
Syed Khurram Azmat
Technical Services and Research and Metrics, Marie Stopes Society, Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Purpose: Pakistan is a patriarchal society in which male opinion leaders play an important role in determining health-seeking behaviors pertaining to family planning (FP) among their respective communities. This research focuses on cataloguing the perceptions of opinion leaders (clergymen, health professionals, and social workers) about the barriers for using services and practical solutions for promoting FP in the slums of Karachi, Pakistan.
Materials and methods: A qualitative study using an open-ended, semistructured interview schedule with hypothetical scenarios and in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 45 opinion leaders (25 mosque imams/clergymen, 12 nonallopathic health professionals, and eight social workers/activists) was conducted in 2006–2007 in Karachi, Pakistan. Transcripts were coded thematically utilizing NVivo by using an adapted constant comparison analysis process as described by Strauss and Corbin.
Results: Seven key themes were derived from the in-depth interviews. Five themes provide insight into the opinion leaders' perceptions of barriers to FP and modern contraception methods. Among the barriers religious taboos and cultural pressures were particularly noteworthy. Two themes offered opportunities for more effective development and implementation of FP programs.
Conclusion: It is evident from the study that opinion leaders in the community and the clergy lack the understanding of the importance of birth spacing. However, because they have a great deal of influence on the community at large, it is imperative to interact with them to build their capacity in order to propagate the messages of FP and improve maternal health and reproductive health in general.
Keywords: religious leaders/community imams/clergyman, health professionals, social workers
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