Group-based microfinance for collective empowerment: a systematic review of health impacts

Lois Orton, Andy Pennington, Shilpa Nayak, Amanda Jayne Sowden, Martin White, Margaret Whitehead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To assess the impact on health-related outcomes, of group microfinance schemes based on collective empowerment. Methods We searched the databases Social Sciences Citation Index, Embase, MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process, PsycINFO, Social Policy & Practice and Conference Proceedings Citation Index for articles published between 1 January 1980 and 29 February 2016. Articles reporting on health impacts associated with group-based microfinance were included in a narrative synthesis. Findings We identified one cluster-randomized control trial and 22 quasi-experimental studies. All of the included interventions targeted poor women living in low- or middle-income countries. Some included a health-promotion component. The results of the higher quality studies indicated an association between membership of a microfinance scheme and improvements in the health of women and their children. The observed improvements included reduced maternal and infant mortality, better sexual health and, in some cases, lower levels of interpersonal violence. According to the results of the few studies in which changes in empowerment were measured, membership of the relatively large and well-established microfinance schemes generally led to increased empowerment but this did not necessarily translate into improved health outcomes. Qualitative evidence suggested that increased empowerment may have contributed to observed improvements in contraceptive use and mental well-being and reductions in the risk of violence from an intimate partner. Conclusion Membership of the larger, well-established group-based microfinance schemes is associated with improvements in some health outcomes. Future studies need to be designed to cope better with bias and to assess negative as well as positive social and health impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-704A
Number of pages22
JournalBulletin of the world health organization
Issue number9
Early online date21 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Health/economics
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal/economics
  • Health Promotion/economics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Maternal Health Services
  • Maternal Health/economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty/economics
  • Power (Psychology)
  • Spouse Abuse/economics
  • Women's Health/economics
  • Young Adult

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