Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Let's Hear It for the Guys: California's Male Involvement Program

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Let's Hear It for the Guys: California's Male Involvement Program

Article excerpt

California's Male Involvement Program (MIP) is a statewide effort to involve young and adult males in teen pregnancy prevention. MIP has been successful in attracting an ethnically and culturally diverse group of young men in multiple community settings. Many of these youth are exposed to risk factors often associated with unintended teen pregnancy, including poverty and academic failure. The program also aims to support young males in a variety of ways that go beyond traditional family planning education or services, helping participants to successfully navigate a healthy passage into adulthood. Programs assist young men through mentoring, affirming cultural roots that emphasize responsibility, and providing alternatives to early fatherhood. Evaluation results document that although MIP significantly improves the knowledge of a vast number of participants concerning pregnancy risk, contraception, and sexual responsibility, it has encountered difficulty in translating knowledge into changed behavior. Nevertheless, the MIP staff understand that issues affecting male involvement in teen pregnancy prevention are complex and deeply rooted in cultural and societal norms -- complexities that require tailoring of programs to their needs. Thus, MIP offers insights for planning and implementing an expanded set of responsive strategies at the local, state, and national levels.

Keywords: California's Male Involvement Program (MIP), teen pregnancy, young men, mentoring, early fatherhood

Preventing adolescents from having an unintended pregnancy has been an important federal and state goal since the early 1970s. Adolescents in the United States have a higher proportion of pregnancies that are unintended than do adults (Santelli, Lindberg, Abma, McNeely, & Resnick, 2000). Moreover, adolescents who have initiated sexual intercourse have some of the highest age-specific rates of sexually transmitted diseases, which, along with unintended pregnancy, impose enormous personal and human costs, lost social and economic opportunities, and high social welfare and healthcare costs (Flinn & Hauser, 1998; National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 1997). Although pregnancy clearly involves both males and females, health professionals have long struggled to define how males could and should participate in pregnancy prevention efforts.

Traditionally, efforts to improve reproductive health in the United States have typically targeted women, largely ignoring the sexual and reproductive health needs of men (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2002; Sonenstein, 2000). In addition, standards of reproductive healthcare have been established for women, yet no similar code has been instituted for men. Recruiting men is often viewed as secondary to a clinic's primary purpose of meeting women's family planning needs, although encouraging women to bring in their male partners is seen as beneficial to female patients (Schulte & Sonenstein, 1995). Other barriers include the lack of interest among many healthcare providers in offering services to men, lack of training, and/or a concern that services for men might divert limited resources from serving women and compromise the quality and availability of care (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2002).

The underlying reasons contributing to the reproductive health services gap between women and men are understandable (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2002). Only women become pregnant and bear children, and safe pregnancies and the healthiest possible outcomes are essential to the well-being of women, children, and families. Apart from condoms, the clear majority of available contraceptive options are geared to females and the relative ease of impacting their fertility cycle. Furthermore, a relatively long history of political advocacy in the area of reproductive health has also been driven by women, and, as a result, diluting the limited available resources is also seen as threatening to the health and well-being of women. …

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