Over the past ten years, Freedom from Hunger has developed technical assistance to introduce and support integrated health and financial service programs that is used by Financial Service Providers (FSPs) and NGOs supporting savings groups are uniquely positioned to offer:

Health and nutrition education

  • Interactive sessions on such topics as prenatal health, safe childbirth, nutrition, common childhood illnesses, malaria, HIV/AIDS, prevention of non-communicable diseases and water and sanitation
  • Training on coping with health-related financial shocks, planning ahead to face common health expenses and getting the most out of local health care services and health microinsurance
  • Training on nutrition for women and children, kitchen gardens, crop selection for consumption, etc.

Health financing and microinsurance

  • Health loans
  • Health savings
  • Loans and savings for health insurance premiums and linkages to health microinsurance
  • Lines of credit and debit cards

Linkages to health providers

  • Organization of mobile health services with public and private providers to deliver preventive and diagnostic services in rural areas
  • Development of networks of providers who agree to provide a range of services for fixed or discounted prices
  • Mobilizing community leaders and health volunteers for prevention, behavior change and creating appropriate demand for health services and products
  • Referrals to private and public providers for secondary care
  • Prepaid-care programs with discounted primary care for rural members
  • Telemedicine access based in primary care centers to provide lower-cost access to specialists for rural members
  • Technical assistance to FSPs and NGOs for contract negotiations; protecting member interests while facilitating contracts between FSPs or NGOs and health service providers

Access to health products

  • Door-to-door visits by trained and supervised village entrepreneurs who reinforce health education, sell health products and medicines and provide referrals to local health care providers
  • Sales of health products such as insecticide-treated nets, family planning products, oral rehydration solution (ORS), and home water treatment and storage devices
  • Micro-franchise distribution of affordable, essential drugs

Partner internal capacity-building

  • Training in the use of operational and financial projection tools for health projects
  • Providing testing and monitoring tools and facilitating the incorporation of such tools into their internal processes

The benefit for public and private health care providers collaborating with FSPs, self-help groups (SHGs) and savings groups is the ability to expand outreach exponentially at a very low cost through existing and self-sustaining networks. For the FSP, integrated health and financial services can enhance brand value and are proving to be a competitive advantage in retaining good clients.

Research shows significant improvement in health behavior and practices. Some examples include:

  • In Bolivia, 24 percent of clients participating in FSP-organized health fairs had never previously visited a professional health care provider.
  • In the Philippines, linkages, financing and educational outreach by one FSP has led to increased enrollment in the national health microinsurance program, PhilHealth; currently, 70 percent of clients are enrolled, compared to 50 percent nationally of informal sector enrollees.
  • In India, an FSP’s community-level health education and sale of ORS has increased appropriate treatment of diarrhea in children from 60 to 100 percent.
  • Nigerian women participating in breastfeeding education delivered during village-banking meetings were 2.5 times more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, 5.8 times more likely to initiate early breastfeeding, and 3.1 times more likely to give colostrum or breastmilk only in the first three days of a baby’s life compared to women participating in village-banking alone.
  • Indian women participating in HIV/AIDS prevention education delivered during SHG meetings were 2.5 times more likely to have heard of HIV and 2.7 times more likely to talk to their families about preventing HIV compared to women participating in SHG meetings alone.

The continuing growth, replication and scale of Freedom from Hunger’s Microfinance and Health Protection initiatives by others are important proof of demonstrating a breakthrough in performance for the FSP and health sectors. In 2010, five FSPs were reaching 300,000 clients with microfinance and health programs. Today, 34 partners in nine countries are reaching over 2.7 million clients resulting in improved client knowledge and ability to prevent and, in many cases, manage illness to reduce the risk of further impoverishment due to poor health.

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