Objectives: To identify where vouchers have been used for reproductive health (RH) services, to what extent RH voucher programmes have been evaluated, and whether the programmes have been effective.
Methods: A systematic search of the peer review and grey literature was conducted to identify RH voucher programmes and evaluation findings. Experts were consulted to verify RH voucher programme information and identify further programmes and studies not found in the literature search. Studies were examined for outcomes regarding targeting, costs, knowledge, utilization, quality, and population health impact. Included studies used cross-sectional, before-and-after and quasi-experimental designs.
Results: Thirteen RH voucher programmes fitting established criteria were identified. RH voucher programmes were located in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Kenya (2), Korea, India, Indonesia, Nicaragua (3), Taiwan, and Uganda. Among RH voucher programmes, 7 were quantitatively evaluated in 15 studies. All evaluations reported some positive findings, indicating that RH voucher programmes increased utilization of RH services, improved quality of care, and improved population health outcomes.
Conclusions: The potential for RH voucher programmes appears positive; however, more research is needed to examine programme effectiveness using strong study designs. In particular, it is important to see stronger evidence on cost-effectiveness and population health impacts, where the findings can best direct governments and external funders.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.