WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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REVIEW
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 125-134

Overcoming access barriers to health services through membership-based microfinance organizations: a review of evidence from South Asia


1 Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne, Australia; Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, India
2 Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Somen Saha
Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne, Level 4, Alan Gilbert Building, 161 Barry St, Carlton, Victoria, 3010, Australia

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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206728

PMID: 25685728

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It is a challenge for the poor to overcome the barriers to accessing health services. Membership-based microfinance with associated health programmes can improve health outcomes for the poor. This study reviewed the evidence published between 1993 and 2013 on the role of membership-based microfinance with associated health programmes in improving health outcomes for the poor in South Asia. A total of 661 papers were identified and 26 selected for inclusion, based on the relevance and rigour of the research methods. Of these 26, five were evidence reviews. Of the remaining 21 papers, 12 were from India, seven from Bangladesh, and one each from Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Three papers addressed more than one theme. Five key themes emerged from the review: (i) the impact of microfinance programmes on the social and economic situation of the poor; (ii) the impact of microfinance programmes on community health; (iii) the impact of integrated microfinance health programmes on raising client awareness; (iv) the impact of integrated microfinance health programmes on financing health care; and (v) the impact of integrated microfinance health programmes on affordable health-care products and services. The review provides new evidence on the pathways through which microfinance helps to improve population health and value for money for such programmes. Among countries with large populations in the informal sector, there is a strong case for policy-makers to support these groups in providing access to life-saving health care among the poor.


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