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Microfinance as a tool for financing medical devices in Syria. An assessment of needs and a call for further research

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Daher, Hanan; Flessa, Steffen

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Abstract Background: Microfinance is a generally accepted tool for improving the economic situation of the poor in developing countries. However, it has hardly been used to finance medical devices required by the disabled, although the incapability of these groups to buy wheelchairs and other equipment is a major source of poverty. Aim: This paper analyzes the need for microfinance as a tool for financing wheelchairs for patients suffering from a walking disability and oxygen concentrators for patients with chronic lung diseases. It is not in the scope of this study to present a comprehensive concept of implementing a microfinance instrument, but the paper intends to demonstrate that the disabled in Syria perceive a great need for such a financing tool. In addition, this paper wants to encourage microfinance institutions to go beyond their traditional field of business and start lending to the disabled so that they can buy the equipment necessary to live a productive life of higher quality. Methodology: Two groups of disabled patients in Syria were asked about their social and economic situation as well as their access to financing tools. The first sample consisted of patients suffering from a walking disability with major constraints concerning their mobility and who are in need of a wheelchair (N = 100). The second sample consisted of patients with chronic lung diseases (N = 90) and with a need of additional oxygen. All participants lived below the national poverty line. Results: Eighty-two percent of the interviewees suffering from a walking disability and 78% of the interviewees with chronic lung diseases were not health-insured. Although there was some knowledge of microfinance among the interviewees, they reported having limited or no access to such programs. Seventy-two percent of the patients with a walking disability and 68% of the patients with chronic lung diseases knew what microfinance is, but the portion of borrowers was 24% of the examined patients with a walking disability and 22% of the patients with chronic lung diseases. Ninety percent of the patients with a walking disability and 73% of the patients with a chronic lung disease are convinced that they could generate income if they could only buy a wheelchair or an oxygen concentrator. The majority, i.e., 89% of the patients with a walking disability and 95% of the patients with a chronic lung disease, believed that microfinance would be an ideal tool for them to finance these devices and that they or their family could pay back the installments. Conclusion: Microfinance has not been used as a tool for financing medical devices in Syria. However, this study shows that the disabled of this country perceive a great need for this innovative system. The majority of the disabled believe that they could gain some income and pay back the loan if they had the necessary equipment. This is a basic prerequisite for further steps to start microfinance for this group of potential clients. However, a start-up would need some support, e.g., by the government of Syria. It is likely that the financing of medical devices by microfinance can also be used for other groups of patients and needy persons in Syria as well as in comparable countries, but this statement calls for further research.
Classification Sociology of Developing Countries, Developmental Sociology; Health Policy
Free Keywords Disability; Medical devices; Microfinance; Poverty; Syria
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 189-197
Journal Journal of Public Health, 18 (2009) 2
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10389-009-0290-5
Status Postprint; reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)
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