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  • Men's Understanding of Women's Health Issues in Kanpur City, India:A Preliminary Research Report
  • A. K. Sharma and Rita Singh, Chief Consultant


This report presents preliminary findings gleaned from a research project on men's understanding of women's health issues in a rural village outside of Kanpur, one of the largest cities in India. The growing importance of socio-psychological models of health in the area of health care decision-making, coupled with recent thinking that it is imperative to involve men in women's health care development projects, were the main motivations for the study. Several studies have identified the significance of cultural beliefs associated with health and illness (Herzlich, 1973; MacElroy and Jezewski, 2001; Siegrist, 2001). It is now clear that in a patrifocal society one cannot do much to empower women without involving men (Necchi, 2001), and programme efforts will have limited impact unless men are reached (Pachauri, 1999). Health depends on several factors such as social representations, family support, awareness, choices, and health seeking behavior. All of these factors in turn depend on social structure and social roles. Thus it is important to examine how and what men think about women's health issues. This paper attempts to provide preliminary answers to several questions: What are men's beliefs regarding the importance of women's health? What are the elements of men's thinking that most importantly impact women's health? What general factors affect women's health and well-being? Does urban contact and concomitant changes have a positive or a negative impact on health? What health care options are available to people? This report attempts to answer these questions and identifies some research gaps to be addressed in the future.

Objectives of the Study

The main objectives of the present study are to:

  • • examine men's views regarding the importance of women's health in a rural [End Page 101] setting;

  • • examine men's representations of women's health and illness and their implications for the health and well-being of women;

  • • explore the subjective understanding of diseases of women, particularly those associated with reproductive health;

  • • examine to what degree and extent husbands and wives communicate about women's health problems and health seeking options available to them;

  • • examine men's views on the prevalence of domestic violence and ways of preventing it;

  • • explore family size norms, family-planning preferences and family planning practices;

  • • explore knowledge about HIV/AIDS.


This study is based on a survey of all currently married males aged twenty to fifty-five living in Itara, a small village located just outside of the city of Kanpur. In order to achieve the above stated objectives of the study, a questionnaire was prepared covering the following items: socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents, subjective indicators of health, extent and causes of domestic violence, ideal family size, family planning practices, and health choices. The questionnaire was pre-tested and modified in the same village. The survey team, consisting of two investigators, spent more than a month collecting data from the village. Prior to the investigation, one of the investigators had worked for a long period of time in Itara (working in the area of health care) and had developed a good rapport with the people. The authors of this study held two focus group discussions in the presence of the investigators when the fieldwork was over.

Background of the Village

Itara is divided into two hamlets located at the periphery of the city of Kanpur. It is about fifteen kilometers from the outskirts of Kanpur and about eight kilometers from Manthana, a small town, situated along the famous G.T. Road. Good roads connect Itara to the outside world but there is no public transport to the village. As per the records of Gram Sabha (the village governing body), the population of the village is 2,700. The list of registered voters contains 830 names. The voters list, however, may not be a good source of data on population. The reason is that many families have left the village and are not likely to return back, but the voters list (a list of voters prepared by the election...


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pp. 101-119
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