Volume 96, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



We evaluate whether health education integrated into microcredit lending groups reduces health risks by improving health knowledge and self-reported behaviors among urban and rural borrowers in eastern Benin. In 2007, we randomly assigned 138 villages in the Plateau region of Benin to one of four variations of a group liability credit product, varying lending groups' gender composition and/or inclusion of health education using a 2 × 2 design. Women in villages receiving health education, regardless of gender composition of the groups, showed improved knowledge of malaria and of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), but not of childhood illness danger signs. No significant changes in health behavior were observed except an increase in HIV/AIDS prevention behavior, a result predominantly driven by an increase in respondents' self-reported ability to procure a condom, likely an indicator of increased perceived access rather than improved preventative behavior. Women in villages assigned to mixed-gender groups had significantly lower levels of social capital, compared with villages assigned to female-only groups. This suggests there may be an important trade-off to consider for interventions seeking improved health outcomes and social capital through provision of services to mixed-gender groups. Although bundling health education with microcredit can expand health education coverage and lower service-delivery costs, the approach may not be sufficient to improve health behaviors.


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Supplementary PDF

  • Received : 18 Feb 2016
  • Accepted : 18 Oct 2016
  • Published online : 08 Feb 2017

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