Expanding access to primary healthcare for women through a microfinance institution: A case study from rural Guatemala

Healthc (Amst). 2018 Dec;6(4):223-230. doi: 10.1016/j.hjdsi.2017.12.003. Epub 2018 Feb 7.


The utilization of existing social networks is increasingly being recognized as a powerful strategy for delivering healthcare services to underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries. In Guatemala, multiple barriers prevent access to healthcare services for rural and indigenous populations, and strategies for delivering healthcare in more efficient ways are needed. The case study we describe here is a unique collaboration between a microfinance institution (Friendship Bridge) and a primary care organization (Wuqu' Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance) to scale up healthcare through an existing lending-borrowing social network. The program provides primary care services to female clients of Friendship Bridge in rural areas of Guatemala, with nurses working as frontline primary care providers, providing door-to-door healthcare services. Over the first 22 months of the project, we have reached over 3500 of Friendship Bridge's clients, with overall high acceptance of services. All clinical documentation and program monitoring and evaluation are done through audit trails within an electronical medical record system, which improves efficiency and lowers the associated time and resources costs. We utilize quality improvement methodologies to aid in decision making and programmatic adjustments scale up. These strategies have allowed us to expand services rapidly under challenging geographic and logistical constraints, while concurrently iteratively improving staff training and supervision, clinical care, and client engagement processes.

Keywords: Guatemala; Microfinance; Primary healthcare; Quality improvement; Social networks; Women's health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Banking, Personal / methods*
  • Banking, Personal / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Guatemala
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Rural Population / trends
  • Social Networking