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Do cash transfer programmes yield better health in the first year of life? A systematic review linking low-income/middle-income and high-income contexts

28 Apr 2018


Decades of research unequivocally demonstrates that no matter the society, socioeconomic resources are perhaps the most fundamental determinants of health throughout the life course, including during its very earliest stages. As a result, societies have implemented ‘cash transfer’ programmes, whichprovide income supplementation to reduce socioeconomic disadvantage among the poorest families with young children. Despite this being a common approach of societies around the world, research on effects of these programmes in low-income/middle-income countries, and those in high-income countries has been conducted as if they are entirely distinct phenomena. In this paper, we systematically review the international literature on the association between cash transfer programmes and health outcomes during the first year of life.


We conducted a systematic review based on Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses protocol. Using a variety of relevant keywords, we searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane Reviews, EconLit and Social Sciences Citations Index.


Our review yielded 14 relevant studies. These studies suggested cash transfer programmes that were not attached to conditions tended to yield positive effects on outcomes such as birth weight and infant mortality. Programmes that were conditional on use of health services also carried positive effects, while those that carried labour-force participation conditionalities tended to yield no positive effects.


Given several dynamics involved in determining whether children are healthy or not, which are common worldwide, viewing the literature from a global perspective produces novel insights regarding the tendency of policies and programmes to reduce or, to exacerbate, the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on child health.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Archives of Disease in Childhood