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Exemplars News: New Research Finds Cash Transfers Reduce Mortality

From Exemplars News: What do nearly 1.36 billion people – about one in five people on the planet – have in common? They received a cash transfer during the pandemic. The pandemic was a “game changer” for cash transfers according to a World Bank report which counted a total of 962 programs across 203 countries – 672 of them launched during the pandemic. These include unconditional cash transfer programs, more common in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as conditional cash transfer programs, more common in Latin America. As countries declare an end to the pandemic crisis, leaders find themselves at a crossroads and must determine the fate of many emergency-era programs, including cash transfers. For insights into the question of the future of cash transfers, both those launched during emergencies and others which have functioned as long-standing social safety net programs, Exemplars News spoke with Dr. Aaron Richterman about his most recent research demonstrating the power of cash transfers as a health promotion tool. Dr. Richterman’s research, across 37 low- and middle-income countries from 2000 to 2019, found that cash transfer programs were associated with significant reductions in mortality among children under five years of age and women over 18. Surprisingly, Dr. Richterman and his coauthors found a spill-over effect that reduced mortality across the entire population of children under five and women, not just among recipients of the cash transfers. “Yes, they are poverty reduction programs and social protection programs,” said Dr. Richterman, who is an Instructor of Medicine specializing in Infectious Disease at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “But they are also more than that. They are also public health programs. These programs are powerful tools to improve population health.” “And those kinds of population health improvements I don’t think are commonly factored into the costs and benefits these programs when decision makers discuss starting, ending or expanding programs,” added Dr. Richterman. “By not including that as part of our calculation for these poverty reduction programs, we may not be accounting for the full benefits we derive from these programs.” Dr. Richterman’s research adds to the already robust body of evidence demonstrating that large-scale, government-run cash transfer programs can reduce poverty, improve school attendance, child nutrition, women’s empowerment, and health-service use among beneficiaries. Exemplars in Global Health research has found that conditional cash transfer programs have helped drive reductions in childhood stunting in Nepal and Peru. Read more at Exemplars News.