Leveraging the Strengths of Two Sectors to Achieve Widespread Change in Health and Poverty: A Business Case for Integrated Microfinance and Health Programs
This paper examines the feasibility of offering integrated health and microfinance programs as a tool for ending poverty. It analyzes the costs and benefits of integrated microfinance and health protection programs and finds that such programs have relatively low cost but a positive impact on multiple stakeholders. The paper suggests that linking the widespread financially sustainable delivery mechanism of microfinance with proven health structures and solutions represents an opportunity to dramatically extend global health outreach while reinforcing the positive outcomes of financial inclusion. Key highlights include:
- Health-care providers can collaborate with MFIs, self-help promoting institutions, and non-government organizations to extend their messages, products and services through existing and self-sustaining networks;
- Higher priority must be given to understanding how to develop partnerships that address the objectives and limitations of health providers and MFIs to leverage their respective strengths;
- Evidence from current programs that link health and MFIs is indeed promising, yet insufficient to motivate the shifts in thinking, practice, and policy that are needed to reach substantially more poor women clients;
- There is concern that instead of access and use of credit alleviating or even reducing poverty, it is creating debt burdens that drive families into even deeper poverty and hopelessness.