Where Do the Poorest Go to Seek Outpatient Care in Bangladesh: Hospitals Run by Government or Microfinance Institutions

Type Journal Article - PloS one
Title Where Do the Poorest Go to Seek Outpatient Care in Bangladesh: Hospitals Run by Government or Microfinance Institutions
Volume 10
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0121733

Health programs implemented by microfinance institutions (MFIs) aim to benefit the poor, but whether these services reach the poorest remains uncertain. This study intended to investigate the socioeconomic distribution of patients in hospitals operated by microfinance institutions (i.e. MFI hospitals) in Bangladesh and compare the differences with public hospitals to determine if the programs were consistent with their pro-poor mandate.


In this cross-sectional study, we used the convenience sampling method to conduct an interviewer-assisted questionnaire survey among 347 female outpatients, with 170 in public hospitals and 177 in MFI hospitals. Independent variables were patient characteristics categorized into predisposing factors (age, education, marital status, family size), enabling factors (microcredit membership, household income) and need factors (self-rated health, perceived needs for care). We employed Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) to evaluate how these factors contributed to MFI hospital use.


Use of MFI hospitals was associated with microcredit membership over 5 years (OR=2.9, p<.01), moderately poor household (OR=4.09, p<.001), non-poor household (OR=7.34, p<.01) and need for preventive care (OR=3.4, p<.01), compared with public hospitals. Combining membership and income, we found microcredit members had a higher tendency towards utilization but membership effect pertained to the non- and moderately-poor. Compared with the group who were non-members and the poorest, microcredit members who were non-poor had the highest likelihood (OR=7.46, p<.001) to visit MFI hospitals, followed by members with moderate income (OR=6.91, p<.001) and then non-members in non-poor households (OR=4.48, p<.01). Those who were members but the poorest had a negative association (OR=0.42), though not significant. Despite a higher utilization of preventive services in MFI hospitals, expenditure there was significantly higher.


Inequity was more pronounced in MFI hospitals than public ones. MFI hospitals appeared to miss their target population. We suggest that MFIs reorganize health programs toward primary health care to make care equitable and universally accessible. This study holds practical implications for governments, development agencies and microfinance practitioners working at the grassroots level.

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