Improving Maternal Health in the Philippines Through Microfinance

CARD MRI clients show off their preferred health provider identification cards.Photo courtesy of Cassie Chandler (Freedom from Hunger)

CARD MRI clients show off their preferred health provider identification cards.
Photo courtesy of Cassie Chandler of Freedom from Hunger

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Economic growth in the Philippines has been very strong over the past 20 years—growing an average of more than 5 percent per year for the last 10 years according to the “Philippines Fifth Progress Report on the MDGs” (download or read below)—and the nation has improved in many key indicators such as life expectancy, access to education, and infant mortality. [1]

However, mothers in the Philippines continue to die before, during, and after childbirth.With the support of Johnson & Johnson and under the banner of the Health and Microfinance Alliance (HMA), the Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger have partnered with CARD MRI, the largest microfinance institution in the Philippines, to jointly launch an integrated health and microfinance program called “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Partnering to improve maternal health in the Philippines.” (Download the program flyer.)

HMHB_CMYK_English_BeveledMATERNAL HEALTH IN THE PHILIPPINES “The increase in maternal mortality ratio indicates that the target of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births has a low probability of being met.”  —Arsenio M. Balisacan “Philippines Fifth Progress Report on the MDGs” ( 1990: 209 deaths per 100,000 live births 2011: 221 deaths per 100,000 live births MDG by 2015: 52 deaths per 100,000 live births  WHY MATERNAL MORTALITY REMAINS HIGH Delays in accessing medical care—whether it be delays in decision making or in reaching and receiving care at health facilities—is a key bottleneck in achieving MDG5.       “Mothers do not seek help from health facilities because of lack of funds, lack of transportation, no information on PhilHealth insurance benefits, and unavailability or inaccessibility of health facilities.”  —Dr. Mercedes B. Concepcion,  “Philippine scorecard on MDGs 4 and 5” ( MRI founder and managing director, Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, believes strongly that good health is a key factor to poverty alleviation, so CARD MRI has been working for many years to improve their clients’ access to health products and services. By working in close collaboration with CARD MRI to launch, coordinate, and evaluate the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies,” the HMA seeks to improve maternal health in the Philippines and show that microfinance is an effective platform for doing so.

With the technical support of Freedom from Hunger, CARD and other microfinance institutions (MFIs) will reach at least 600,000 women with health education and other services aimed at improving maternal health by the end of December 2015. The program will primarily serve poorer, rural areas of the Philippines where maternal mortality rates are the highest, targeting provinces located in Visayas, Mindanao, and the southern portion of Luzon, mirroring locations where CARD has successfully delivered education and developed a network of health providers.

In addition, through “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies,” the HMA will work to strengthen “MFIs for Health,” a group of 18 MFIs that are committed to providing integrated health and microfinance to the communities in which they work, by helping to build a sustainable and durable support infrastructure for the Consortium and strengthening the capacity of member MFIs.

We at the Microcredit Summit Campaign will lead efforts to engage leaders from the business and philanthropic communities, as well as to create linkages between public and private health providers and members of MFIs for Health. In fact, Campaign Director Larry Reed is making his first visit to the Philippines to kick off this alliance building and outreach strategy. He will be meeting with foundations and corporations, citizen-led grassroots groups, as well as international NGOs and banks to discuss with them the great potential of the integrated health and microfinance model.

We believe that integrated health and microfinance is an important strategy for achieving our second goal of helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty, so we will recruit Campaign Commitments—specific, measurable, and time-bound actions—as a mechanism for strengthening this consortium of MFIs in the Philippines providing health products and services to their clients. We will “put our money where our mouth is,” so to speak, helping to establish public-private and cross-sector partnerships as emphasized during our 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit held last October in the Philippines.

To learn more about this joint program between the Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger, and CARD MRI, download the flyer or contact Camille Rivera (rivera[at]

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About the Health and Microfinance Alliance
The Health and Microfinance Alliance (HMA) is an initiative led by the Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger with the idea of cultivating “communities of practice” for the global expansion of integrated microfinance and health, which is the delivery of health products and services using the platform of microfinance. The HMA seeks to influence the way that practitioners, thought leaders, policymakers, and funders approach healthcare delivery and poverty alleviation for the world’s poorest. For the past several years, the HMA has been working with microfinance institutions and self-help groups in India to address the link between ill health and poverty and currently reaches nearly 1 million women and their families. The “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies” project serves to expand the HMA to the Philippines.

[1] Sources

Read the Philippines Fifth Progress Report on the MDGs