Microfinance savings and/or borrowing groups linked with health education, health financing, and health product delivery
>>Authored by Camille Rivera, Senior Program Associate, and Sabina Rogers, Communications & Relationships Manager
With the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit in the Philippines, we wrote a new chapter in the evolution of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. The 16th Microcredit Summit focused on how public-private partnerships could combine expertise from the field of microfinance with other areas to develop more efficient and sustainable services for the extreme poor.
We have since created one such collaboration in order to address the problem of stubbornly high maternal mortality rates in the Philippines. While the country has experienced strong economic growth in recent years and the government has instituted a national hospital insurance scheme, PhilHealth, maternal mortality is at 221 per 100,000 live births. The Philippines are far off track of their maternal mortality MDG of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.
It is a long way to go from 221 to 52 in the next few months, but when offered the opportunity to scale up in a short period of time our integrated health and microfinance methodology, we (with Freedom from Hunger) jumped at the chance. In partnership with a local partner CARD MRI (the largest social development organization providing micro-financial services in the Philippines) and with the financial and strategic support of Johnson & Johnson, we are implementing the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project (HMHB, or “Kalinga Kay Inay” by its name in Tagalog).
How it works
The idea is simple: offer free health check-ups and behavior change education on health topics to pregnant and lactating women to create positive health outcomes. By the end of 2015, CARD and other MFIs will educate 600,000 women to improve maternal health and safe deliveries of infants, birth outcomes, and reduce preventable maternal death; and 8,000 pregnant or lactating women will be directly connected to relevant services and products. CARD and partners have held two community health fairs so far, and for many of these women, it was their very first gynecological exam.
At these health fairs, CARD sets up tents to give shade to those waiting outside. Inside the building, as the women wait for their preliminary exams (and, if necessary, ultrasounds), they learn about family planning. The volunteer health providers (doctors, OB-GYN, midwives, and others) write prescriptions for those who need medications, and BotiCARD (a CARD MRI institution) fill them for free in a tent set up outside.
CARD has found their collaboration with local government and public health units to be vital in getting higher-than-expected turnout to the fairs as well as for identifying local health providers for CARD members. Local administrators of PhilHealth have joined our January health fair and provided services to 179 health fair patients ranging from members’ renewal enrollment, new enrollment, membership updating, and printing of members’ data information.
Making these changes lasting changes
More importantly to us, through this endeavor, we are working to improve the scalability and sustainability of delivery of health education and related services to millions of women and children in the Philippines. Inspired by the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit, the Campaign’s role in the HMHB project is to reach beyond the traditional microfinance actors and facilitate a partnership-building process for the “MFIs for Health” consortium, a group of 18 MFIs who are banding together to increase access for their communities to health-related products and services.
We are talking with several foundations, corporations, and associations to identify specific ways that they can work with us and MFIs for Health to increase access to and improve delivery of healthcare services. The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) and JPHIEGO in the Philippines are two organizations that have joined forces with our alliance — whether formally or informally. They have facilitated introductions to local government units (LGUs) and the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines to recruit healthcare providers as volunteers for the health fair and get their help spreading the word to their patients. In fact, ZFF and CARD are working with the Rural Health Unit (RHU) in the Visayas to coincide the RHU’s “Buntis Congress” (Pregnant Women’s Congress) with CARD’s April community health fair. Through this coordination, we are pooling resources and thus gain a larger potential impact for the community.
This strategy behind HMHB, to facilitate partnerships between microfinance actors and players in other sectors, parallels efforts to create more integrated approaches to solve the most pressing needs of the extreme poor. In this case, we are addressing maternal and child health; in Ethiopia, it could be fistula and, in India, it could be non-communicable diseases.
Because MFIs meet regularly with large numbers of clients, they serve as an ideal platform to convey health information and services to clients who often build relationships of trust with their loan officers, as well as other members in their group. These exchanges can also have a replicator effect as clients are encouraged to share the information with their family members and others in their community.
By forging partnerships across sectors and bringing in non-traditional actors to microfinance, the Campaign is maximizing the best aspects of each player and (hopefully) helping the Philippines reduce their maternal mortality rate to 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.
- Op-ed Published on Devex: Microfinance is the key for the Philippines to meet MDG 5
S. Hollingworth, L. Reed, J. Aristotle Alip | Nov. 18, 2014 | Devex Impact
- Microfinance communities working together to improve maternal health
- Hurdling the Health Access Barrier
C. Chandler | Mar. 10, 2015 | Huffington Post
- 2014 State of the Campaign Report: “Microfinance and Health Providers Can Partner for Greater Results“