Couples in Mali who spoke to one another about family planning were significantly more likely not only to use modern contraception, but to adopt a series of healthy behaviors ranging from being tested for HIV during pre-natal care visits to seeking treatment for a child’s cough, new research suggests.
Only 30 percent of the participants in a survey of 4,409 women of reproductive age in the West-African nation said they had spoken to their husbands in the previous year about family planning. Dr. Danielle Naugle, research and evaluation officer at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, says the findings suggest that developing ways to improve spousal communication – and to get more couples talking to each other – could boost health across the board.
“If we can change spousal communication for the better, we might be able to improve a lot of the health-seeking behaviors in Mali,” she says.
Dr. Naugle will present the research at the 2018 International Social and Behavior Change Communication Summit in Nusa Dua, Indonesia on April 17. She says the culture in Mali makes it very difficult for couples to communicate, especially on topics such as their bodies, bodily functions and sex. Often the women are married at young ages to older men and move in with their in-laws, where they feel embarrassed to have what are considered taboo conversations – even with their husbands.