The Role of Gender Power Relations on Women's Health Outcomes: Evidence from a Maternal Health Coverage Survey in Simiyu Region, Tanzania
Background: Gender is a crucial consideration of human rights that impacts many priority maternal health outcomes. However, gender is often only reported in relation to sex-disaggregated data in health coverage surveys. Few coverage surveys to date have integrated a more expansive set of gender-related questions and indicators, especially in low- to middle-income countries that have high levels of reported gender inequality. Objective: Using various gender-sensitive indicators, we investigated
... he role of gender power relations within households on women's health outcomes in Simiyu region, Tanzania. Methods: We assessed 34 questions around gender dynamics reported by men and women against 18 women's health outcomes. We created directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) to theorize the relationship between indicators, outcomes, and sociodemographic covariates. We grouped gender variables into four categories using an established gender framework: (1) women's decision-making, (2) household labor-sharing, (3) women's resource access, and (4) norms/beliefs. Gender indicators that were most proximate to the health outcomes in the DAG were tested using multivariate logistic regression, adjusting for sociodemographic factors.Results: The overall percent agreement of gender-related indicators within couples was 68.6%. The lowest couple concordance was a woman's autonomy to decide to see family/friends without permission from her husband/partner (40.1%). A number of relationships between gender-related indicators and health outcomes emerged: questions from the decision-making domain were found to play a large role in women's health outcomes, and condoms and contraceptive outcomes had the most robust relationship with gender indicators. Women who reported being able to make their own health decisions were 1.57 times (95% CI: 1.12, 2.20) more likely to use condoms. Women who reported that they decide how many children they had also reported high contraception use (OR: 1.79, 95% CI: 1.34, 2.39). Seeking care at the health facility was also associated with women's autonomy for making major household purchases (OR: 1.35, 95% CI: 1.13, 1.62). Conclusions: The association between decision-making and other gender domains with women's health outcomes highlights the need for heightened attention to gender dimensions of intervention coverage in maternal health. Future studies should integrate and analyze gender-sensitive questions within coverage surveys.