Benefits of Integrating Microfinance and Health Protection Services Published
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The March 2011 edition of Oxford Journals’ Health Policy and Planning has published a paper that examines the benefits of integrating microfinance with health protection services and makes recommendations that can inform policy and program design for expansion of the practice.
After a review of multiple studies, the paper concludes that microfinance institutions (MFIs) are capable of contributing to health improvements by increasing knowledge that leads to behavioral changes, and enhancing access to health services through addressing financial, geographic and other barriers. The authors found evidence of positive health outcomes in nutrition, infectious disease, maternal and child health, domestic violence, and malaria.
Illness and poor health are widely recognized as important contributors to trapping families in poverty, sometimes despite their best efforts to start and sustain small businesses and other income-generating activity. Even one episode of a serious illness can cause a family to lose valuable assets and to slide back into grinding poverty. This paper is important because it highlights the important opportunity for health and microfinance to be combined as a more effective strategy towards greater economic security among the world’s poor. The poor need access to a coordinated set of financial and other development services to improve household resources and health. The studies analyzed provide promising evidence that MFIs offer a unique and underutilized opportunity that could be more widely deployed for the delivery of health-related services to those most in need.
As the number of studies on the practice grows and more microfinance practitioners learn of the potential benefits and low cost of integration, value-added microfinance is expanding and being adapted for application in new regions and settings.