Investigating Financial Incentives for Maternal Health: An Introduction

Mary Ellen Stanton, Elizabeth S. Higgs, Marge Koblinsky

Abstract


Projection of current trends in maternal and neonatal mortality reduction shows that many countries will fall short of the UN Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5. Underutilization of maternal health services contributes to this poor progress toward reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Moreover, the quality of services continues to lag in many countries, with a negative effect on the health of women and their babies, including deterring women from seeking care. To enhance the use and provision of quality maternal care, countries and donors are increasingly using financial incentives. This paper introduces the JHPN Supplement, in which each paper reviews the evidence of the effectiveness of a specific financial incentive instrument with the aim of improving the use and quality of maternal healthcare and impact. The US Agency for International Development and the US National Institutes of Health convened a US Government Evidence Summit on Enhancing Provision and Use of Maternal Health Services through Financial Incentives on 24-25 April 2012 in Washington, DC. The Summit brought together leading global experts in finance, maternal health, and health systems from governments, academia, developmentorganizations, and foundations to assess the evidence on whether financial incentives significantly and substantially increase provision, use and quality of maternal health services, and the contextual factors that impact the effectiveness of these incentives. Evidence review teams evaluated the multidisciplinaryevidence of various financial mechanisms, including supply-side incentives (e.g. performance-based financing, user fees, and various insurance mechanisms) and demand-side incentives (e.g. conditional cash transfers, vouchers, user fee exemptions, and subsidies for care-seeking). At the Summit, the teams presented a synthesis of evidence and initial recommendations on practice, policy, and research for discussion. The Summit enabled structured feedback on recommendations which the teams included in their final papers appearing in this Supplement. Papers in this Supplement review the evidence for a specific financial incentive mechanism (e.g. pay for performance, conditional cash transfer) to improve the use and quality of maternal healthcare and makes recommendations for programmes and future research. While data on programmes using financial incentives for improved use and indications of the quality of maternal health services support specific conclusions and recommendations, including those for future research, data linking the use of financial incentives with improved health outcomes are minimal.

Key words: Health services research: Maternal health services; Maternal welfare/economics; Pregnancy;Programme evaluation


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