Changing men or changing health systems? A scoping review of interventions, services and programmes targeting men's health in sub-Saharan Africa

Thierry Beia, Karina Kielmann, Karin Diaconu

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Sex and gender have been shown to influence health literacy, health seeking behaviour, and health outcomes. However, research examining the links between gender and health has mainly focused on women's health, which is a long-standing global health priority. We examine literature focused on the 'missing men' in global health research, in particular empirical studies that document interventions, programmes, and services targeting men's health issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. Within these studies, we identify dominant conceptualisations of men and men's health and how these have influenced the design of men's health interventions and services.

METHODS: This is a scoping review of published and grey literature. Following comprehensive searches, we included 56 studies in the review. We conducted a bibliographic analysis of all studies and used inductive methods to analyse textual excerpts referring to conceptualizations of men and service design. An existing framework to categorise services, interventions, or programs according to their gender-responsiveness was adapted and used for the latter analysis.

RESULTS: From the included studies, we distinguished four principal ways in which men were conceptualized in programs and interventions: men are variously depicted as 'gatekeepers'; 'masculine' men, 'marginal' men and as 'clients. Additionally, we classified the gender-responsiveness of interventions, services or programmes described in the studies within the following categories: gender-neutral, -partnering, -sensitive and -transformative. Interventions described are predominantly gender-neutral or gender-partnering, with limited data available on transformative interventions. Health systems design features - focused mainly on achieving women's access to, and uptake of services - may contribute to the latter gap leading to poor access and engagement of men with health services.

CONCLUSION: This review highlights the need for transformation in sub-Saharan African health systems towards greater consideration of men's health issues and health-seeking patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number87
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men's Health
  • Sexual Partners


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