Involving men and boys in family planning: a systematic review of complex interventions to identify effective programme components and characteristics in low- and middle-income countries

Programme of work

Evaluating complex interventions

Principal investigator(s)

Maria Lohan and Áine Aventin

Host institution

Queen's University Belfast

Other institutions

The Women’s Health Action Research Centre Benin City Nigeria
Stellenbosch University South Africa and Queen’s University Belfast


April 2020 to June 2021

Project type

Evidence synthesis


Low- and middle-income countries

Research question

The study aims to uncover the true mechanisms of change in family planning (FP) interventions involving men and boys. The study will answer the following questions:

  1. What is the state of the evidence on engaging men and boys in FP and what gaps in research knowledge exist?
  2. What are the impacts of involving men and boys in FP interventions on maternal and child health and other FP related outcomes?
  3. What are the key components of effective interventions?
  4. What characteristics and combinations of characteristics are associated with positive maternal and child health and other FP-related outcomes?
  5. What are the system- and process-level barriers to and enablers of effective FP models involving men and boys?
  6. Do outcomes vary by context and participant characteristics?
  7. Are there any unintended or adverse outcomes for vulnerable groups?

Research design

This systematic review will use a causal chain analysis to synthesise the available evidence on the effectiveness and implementation of complex FP interventions, examine characteristics of intervention components, systems and processes to enable a better understanding of existing interventions for adaptation and scaling up.

The team will build a logic model that provides a visual representation of how and under what circumstances FP interventions might work to improve maternal and child health. The logic model will inform pairwise analysis to identify which interventions are effective, mediator and moderator analysis to identify the pathways to effectiveness (quantitative causal chain analysis), and meta-regression to assess the impact of specific components and characteristics, and the combinations of components and characteristics of effective interventions.

An advisory group of 9–10 expert stakeholders from Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Ethiopia and Uganda will be convened and meet three times via videoconference. Representatives from organisations involved in FP-service planning and delivery will also be approached. Stakeholders will advise on developing the logic model and comment on the protocol development including identification of pertinent review outcomes, and finalising review questions.

Data source

Systematic review of evidence including randomised controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies and process evaluations. Stakeholder consultation to develop logic model.

Policy relevance

This evidence synthesis is relevant to ministries of health, medical research councils, global sexual health and FP-service providers, programme designers, and national and international organisations looking for ways to accelerate the use of FP in low- and middle-income countries.