MICROFINANCE PAPER WRAP-UP: “Integrated Health and Microfinance in India, Volume II: The Way Forward;” by Somen Saha, D.S.K. Rao; published by Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger

“Integrated Health and Microfinance in India, Volume II: The Way Forward;” by Somen Saha and D.S.K. Rao; published by the Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger; 2014; 36 pages; available at http://microcreditsummit.org/uploads/resource/document/ffh_indiareport_2014_web_58274.pdf

This paper builds on a report entitled “Integrated Health and Microfinance in India: Harnessing the Strengths of Two Sectors to Improve Health and Alleviate Poverty”, which was written in 2012 by a group of authors that includes those who wrote “Volume Two.” The authors of “Volume One” argued for an integrated approach to microfinance and health and suggested ways to enhance such services. Volume Two serves as a follow-up to discuss “the context of integration of health and microfinance in light of India’s journey towards universal health care by 2020.” Additionally, the authors discuss the benefits of a number of health care programs offered by local microfinance institutions (MFIs) and provide an overview of access to health care through self-help groups (SHGs), which commonly include a few dozen women who partner to make use of financial services. The report is intended to draw the attention of health and financial policy makers, practitioners, researchers, donors and “social investors” with the aim of encouraging a combined approach to healthcare and microfinance in India.

The report begins with an overview of the microfinance sector in India, which consists two “dominant models”: MFIs and SHGs. The authors summarize the substantial growth that the sector experienced in the previous decade, as well as the drop-off in repayments that occurred in the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2010. They describe the consolidation of the sector that took place between 2011 and 2013 and suggest that the sector has become “more transparent” as a result. MFIs now often use “codes of conduct, client-protection principles and fair practices code.” Twenty-eight million customers are served by MFIs in India and 46 percent of these report to the US-based Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) as of 2014.

The authors also stress the links between education and health and between gender and health, urging greater recognition of these relationships. They also suggest that MFIs and SHGs are well positioned to assist poor people in gaining access to low-cost health care services by offering health microinsurance. Further, MFIs and SHGs are suitable to organize sessions to promote health education. The implementation of pilot programs is recommended, to be followed by the scaling-up of successful solutions to provide low-cost health services to poor people in the country. “Health interventions” including “preventative and promotive” health programs, health financing and insurance programs, and programs that facilitate “diagnostic and screening services” are also recommended. The authors also cite evidence of improved health standards due to “integrated programs” based on surveys, studies and randomized controlled trials.

As part of the report, the authors conducted a survey of 25 MFIs that each manage an “integrated health program.” The authors found that the respondents introduced health programs to promote awareness and access to healthcare, to “link clients to [government] subsidies” and to provide microinsurance services. The report also includes seven case studies that address client needs and the benefits of such health programs. The report concludes with a brief overview of areas that the authors recommend for further research, including the “effectiveness studies” and impact evaluations at individual and institutional levels.

By Alíz Crowley, Research Associate

About Microcredit Summit Campaign

The Microcredit Summit Campaign is a project that was launched in 1997 by Results Educational Fund (REF), a nonprofit advocacy group that is based in the US city of Washington, DC. The campaign’s mission is to bring 100 million families above USD 1.25 in daily income by 2015. The campaign also aims to bring financial and business services to 175 million people living in extreme poverty, especially women. According to the data reported to the campaign, approximately 3,700 microfinance institutions reported an outreach to approximately 204 million clients as of December 31, 2012.

About Freedom from Hunger

Freedom from Hunger is based in the US city of Davis, California. Formerly called “Meals for Millions,” it is an NGO that operates in developing countries with the aim of alleviating hunger and poverty. The organization runs “integrated microfinance programs” that offer financial, education and health protection services. Additionally, Freedom from Hunger offers adult education services for women with the aim of promoting “better health, nutrition, business and money management.” As of 2014, Freedom from Hunger works with a total of 181 partners in 23 countries and has 5.7 million clients. As of June 30, 2013, Freedom from Hunger reported total assets of USD 5.3 million. The parent organization of the Microcredit Summit Campaign is the RESULTS Educational Fund, which reported total contributions of USD 7.3 million and net assets of USD 9 million as of December 2012.

[1] Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger: Integrated Health and Microfinance in India, Volume II: The Way Forward

MicroCapital, July 7, 2014, “Invest. Catalyze. Mainstream. The Indian Impact Investing Story;” by Nisha Dutt, Usha Ganesh, Prashant Chandrasekaran, Payal Agarwal, Samved Patil, Ankit Gupta; Published by Intellecap

MicroCapital, June 24, 2014, Microcredit Summit Campaign Report; responsAbility Financial, Social Impact Assessment; Microinsurance Education in Zambia

MicroCapital, July 22, 2013, MicroCredit Enterprises Partners with Freedom from Hunger to offer Health-related Services to Clients of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)

MicroCapital Universe Profile: Microcredit Summit Campaign

MicroCapital Universe Profile: Freedom from Hunger

Do you know that MicroCapital publishes the MicroCapital Monitor newspaper each month? Find out more at https://www.microcapital.org/products-page/

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