Provision of health services to microfinance clients: An analysis of evidence and future directions Public Deposited

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  • February 27, 2019
  • Saha, Somen
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Public Health Leadership Program
  • Introduction: The growth of microfinance as an effective tool for poverty reduction provides a mechanism to extend health services to the poor and needy. Of the 3,552 reported microfinance institutions (MFI), 226 MFIs also provides health services to their clients in Latin America (53), Africa (43) and South Asia (130). There are limited systematic efforts to understand the sector, except for evaluation of individual programs. This paper attempts to develop a broader understanding of the microfinance and health sector by collecting views from senior MFI practitioners about their experiences in offering health services to clients. Methods: Identification of microfinance institutions with self-reported health programs in Africa, Latin America and South Asia was done through exploring the Microfinance and Information Exchange (MIX) database. A self-administered questionnaire was designed to collect experiences from identified MFI practitioners with health programs. After an initial poor response from general emailing of the questionnaire to the MFIs, a selective approach was taken through approaching several intermediary organizations to encourage MFIs to participate in the survey. Findings: Fourteen MFIs completed the survey to date with ongoing follow-up efforts underway. MFI health programs can be classified into four broad categories, according to their primary goals: raising client awareness of health-related issues, facilitating access to health services, provision of health services, and removing financial barriers. Hygiene and sanitation, childhood illnesses, maternal health, HIV/AIDS and water sanitation dominate the health needs addressed by MFIs. Although preventive health programs dominate the agenda of MFIs, curative services are also offered through means such as referring to formal health care providers and financing health services through extending health micro insurance and providing health loans at the individual level. Conclusions: This study is a first of its kind effort to document the experiences of microfinance practitioners with health programs through a survey. The study confronts the general belief that MFIs offer health services to protect their business interest because of clients falling sick and being unable to repay loans. The key conclusion of the study is that the MFIs appear to be motivated by the lack of client awareness about health issues. Also, MFIs struggle to design appropriate community sensitive health programs which can result in failures. Finally there is lack of evidence sharing in the sector, which calls for more systematic efforts to strengthen the evaluation and applied research capacity.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Paper type: Research or research design
  • Track: HC&P
  • Sollecito, William
  • Leatherman, Sheila
  • Master of Public Health
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2009
Deposit record
  • b6f6bdeb-f0b9-4907-a2ad-769b5d2e1080

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