Unconditional cash transfers for reducing poverty and vulnerabilities: effect on use of health services and health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries

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The review included twenty-one studies that had included a total of more than one million participants living in Africa, the Americas, and Southeast Asia. The studies covered 17 different cash transfer programs, and almost all were large cluster randomized trials. Unfortunately, though, most of the studies had a high risk of bias.

This body of evidence suggests that unconditional cash transfer (UCTs) may not impact health services use among children and adults in LMICs. UCTs probably or may improve some health outcomes (i.e. the likelihood of having had any illness, the likelihood of having secure access to food, and diversity in one's diet), one social determinant of health (i.e. the likelihood of attending school), and healthcare expenditure. The evidence on the health effects of UCTs compared with those of CCTs is uncertain.

Key findings include:

-          An unconditional cash transfer probably reduces the odds of having had any illness in the last two to twelve weeks by an estimated 27%. (a large and clinically meaningful reduction)

-          There is some (albeit low quality) evidence that UCTs might improve food security and dietary diversity.

-          Evidence of impact of UCT on mental health, livestock ownership, extreme poverty, participation in child labour, adult employment or parenting quality is uncertain

-          UCT probably improved school attendance

-          UCT probably increased the amount of money recipients spent to purchase healthcare

Read the review here.   Podcast summary can be heard here.