Objective: The purpose of this study is to assess the impact of microfinance health interventions (health insurance and health-awareness programmes) on health-related outcomes among female informal workers in Pakistan.
Design: We conducted a retrospective, quasi-experimental study among a total of 442 female borrowers from seven microfinance providers (MFPs) across four provinces of Pakistan in 2018. A standardised tool was used for data collection. Probit regression was used to identify the probability of female borrowers gaining improvements in health outcomes based on their sociodemographic characteristics. Propensity score matching (PSM) was used to assess the overall impact of health interventions.
Primary outcome measures: Four health-related outcomes reported by the women were used: perception of good health overall, ability to visit a general practitioner, ability to purchase prescribed medicine and intake of multivitamins.
Results: We found that women receiving health interventions had a greater probability of better health outcomes when they were from Punjab province, borrowing in groups and attending monthly meetings at MFPs. Even with a small loan amount, all four health-related outcomes were significantly associated with receiving health insurance and health-awareness programmes. PSM results show a greater likelihood of overall perceived good health (nearest neighbour matching (NNM) =17.4%; kernel matching (KM) =11.8%) when health insurance is provided and a significant improvement in the ability to purchase prescribed medicine when a health-awareness programme is provided (NNM=10.1%; KM=11.7%).
Conclusion: Health and social policies are vital to secure health and well-being among poor women working in the informal sector. Targeting improved equity across female population groups for health interventions will in the long run improve poor women's health, income-earning abilities and capacity expansion for small businesses.