Freedom from Hunger has been selected as one of 10 finalists for the 2014 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation for its groundbreaking work to improve access to health services for very poor families in the developing world.

In 2006, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Freedom from Hunger launched an initiative to deliver a range of health services through its microfinance institution (MFI) partners in India, the Philippines, Bolivia, Bénin and Burkina Faso. These services included health education for behavior change; health savings accounts, loans and micro-insurance; as well as linkages to health providers and access to health products.

At the end of the pilot in 2010, these services were reaching more than 300,000 families. Today, Freedom from Hunger is delivering sustainable and effective health programs to more than 2.6 million poor families in 10 countries through 35 partner organizations. Because of their existing relationships with their clients, MFIs are well-positioned to connect their clients to appropriate, high-quality providers and help promote more vibrant local health markets.

A post-pilot evaluation of the program showed significant improvements in health knowledge, behaviors (such as use of primary care services, maternal and infant care, and child feeding) and improved access to basic health services. Four years later, another evaluation showed that the behavioral changes were sustained, and even improved, over time.

Over the past 8 years, Freedom from Hunger has demonstrated that these health programs are not only effective, they are cost-effective. At a cost of less than $1 per family/year, integrating life-saving health services with financial services has proven a powerful, effective solution to address a persistent challenge for rural communities in the developing world. Today, women are being equipped with vital health knowledge and the ability to prevent and manage illness, thereby reducing the risk of further impoverishment as a result of an unexpected health event.

“We are truly honored to be included among a very distinguished list of finalists for the 2014 Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Innovation,” commented Freedom from Hunger CEO, Steve Hollingworth. “With more than 200 million microfinance clients worldwide, we continue to see tremendous potential to reach poor families with access to vital health services delivered through their financial service providers.”

Awarded annually since 1991, the Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Innovation is given to a social‐sector organization that demonstrates Peter Drucker’s definition of innovation—change that creates a new dimension of performance. This year, the Drucker Institute received 687 applications from non-profits in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

“The first-round judges have probably never debated harder or longer to get down to just 10,” said Rick Wartzman, the Drucker Institute’s Executive Director. “Peter Drucker taught that the first requirement for successful innovation is to look at changes in technology or the structure of society or demographics as a potential opportunity instead of as a threat. Each of the finalists is an exemplar of putting this principle into practice.”

The Drucker Institute is a social enterprise based at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. Its mission is to strengthen organizations to strengthen society.