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Delivering Sustainable Health Services through Microfinance


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by Agnes Cho, program associate, Global Partnerships

With the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Linked Foundation, FMO (the Dutch development bank) and other generous funders, Global Partnerships has worked with five of our partners in five countries since 2011 to design, implement and scale sustainable business models. In August, GP traveled with three of our health partners to La Paz, Bolivia to present these learnings at the 7th Annual Latin American Village Bank Forum.  The presentation represented more than three years of learnings from piloting and scaling these programs, including case studies on four separate business models.

Latin American microfinance has its roots in the high-impact village bank methodology, which was developed to extend financial inclusion and complementary products and services to the world’s poorest people. Since the origin of village banking, this methodology has been used to deliver microloans, savings and business education to improve the lives of people, mostly women, living in poverty and build up their economic resilience.

At the heart of village banking is the recognition by mission-driven MFIs that credit is just one of many tools to help people living in poverty. As part of GP’s Health Services initiative, we work with partners confronting the constant challenges of poor health and limited access to quality health services that their clients face. These challenges are often significant contributing factors to persistent poverty, and the group lending platform provides our partners with a touch point through which they can efficiently and effectively respond to the health needs of their clients.

There are numerous ways in which MFIs can deliver a health program shaped by client need, market demand and regulatory context. The Global Partnerships moderated panel at this year’s Forum featured the business models used to provide health services to clients by three of our MFI partners: Friendship Bridge in Guatemala, Fundación ESPOIR in Ecuador and Pro Mujer in Nicaragua.

All three organizations leverage their clients’ monthly repayment meetings to provide tailored education sessions about common health needs. Pro Mujer and Fundación ESPOIR* also run their own health clinics, where they provide basic preventive screenings and primary care consults.  Pro Mujer markets an optional package with coupons that can be redeemed for specialized medical attention and Fundación ESPOIR offers clients access to a national network of dentists, clinics and pharmacies through a micro-insurance package. Friendship Bridge has created a strategic alliance with a third-party health provider for consults focused on women’s health via mobile clinics that travel to client communities.

As MFIs and other social enterprises redouble their commitment to addressing clients’ holistic development needs beyond access to credit, knowledge sharing is critical. With this in mind, as well as the goal of helping organizations throughout the global development sector further develop, refine and scale sustainable business models that provide high-impact, non-financial services, Global Partnerships is working to disseminate the lessons we and our partners have learned. The panel at this year’s Latin American Village Bank Forum was an ideal setting in which to present these key learnings. GP will continue to share and discuss these learnings at other industry events, including the ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) Annual Conference the week of Oct 1, 2015. These discussions focus on some of the key questions raised by GP’s work with our health services partners:

  • Should MFIs build their own clinic infrastructure or create alliances with third-party providers?
  • Should MFIs opt for a prepaid or insurance model? A voluntary or mandatory health package?
  • How can critical health services be delivered sustainably by MFIs and other organizations working in global development?

We delve into these questions in greater detail and present the full scope of Global Partnerships’ Health Services Initiative to date in our recently published case study, Sustainable Health Solutions for People Living in Poverty in Latin America.

*While Fundación ESPOIR has one proprietary clinic, most of their clients receive health services through third-party clinics that have established partnerships with Fundación ESPOIR.

Blog Tags: Ecuador   Espoir   Friendship Bridge   Guatemala   health   health services   Health Services Fund   Latin America   microfinance   Nicaragua   Pro Mujer in Nicaragua   sustainable health   village bank   women's health   

The members of GP's panel at the 7th annual Latin American Village Bank Forum, from left to right: Betty Moreira, Education Coordinator at Fundación ESPOIR, Amy Petrocy, Health Coordinator at Friendship Bridge, Ricardo Visbal (moderator), Vice President, Lending and Portfolio Management - Latin America and the Caribbean at Global Partnerships, and Sonia Morín, Education Coordinator at Pro Mujer in Nicaragua. Photo © Global Partnerships.
The members of GP's panel at the 7th annual Latin American Village Bank Forum, from left to right: Betty Moreira, Education Coordinator at Fundación ESPOIR, Amy Petrocy, Health Coordinator at Friendship Bridge, Ricardo Visbal (moderator), Vice President, Lending and Portfolio Management - Latin America and the Caribbean at Global Partnerships, and Sonia Morín, Education Coordinator at Pro Mujer in Nicaragua. Photo © Global Partnerships.

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