Sheila Leatherman, Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina, USA Christopher Dunford, Marcia Metcalfe, Myka Reinsch, Megan Gash and Bobbi Gray, Freedom from Hunger, USA Microfinance clients and their families often face health challenges that impede their ability to use financial services to improve their lives. Health shocks are among the most common reasons that clients fail to repay, save, and remain active customers. For the benefit of both their social and financial bottom lines, many microfinance providers have felt compelled to help clients prevent and/or treat common health problems. They have developed a variety of responses, ranging from preventive health education to healthcare financing (commitment savings, emergency loans and insurance) to provision of health services and products. This paper surveys the range of experience of microfinance providers of all types and geographies, as well as the available evidence of impacts for clients, families, and communities and the cost and benefits to the microfinance providers who offer health protection options. Lessons for practice and ideas for experimentation and research are offered with the full expectation that integration of microfinance and health protection will become increasingly common in poverty alleviation programs.
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