Health impacts of unconditional cash transfers for reducing poverty and vulnerabilities in low- and middle-income countries

Added April 20, 2022

Citation: Pega F, Pabayo R, Benny C, Lee E-Y, Lhachimi SK, Liu SY. Unconditional cash transfers for reducing poverty and vulnerabilities: effect on use of health services and health outcomes in low‐ and middle‐income countries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2022;(3):CD011135.

Language: Abstract available in EN / ES. Plain language summary available in EN / ES / JA. Full text available in EN.

Free to view: No.

Funding sources: The authors reported no external sources of funding.

What is this? Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) are used to try to reduce poverty and vulnerabilities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), thereby addressing a key social determinant of health.

In this updated Cochrane review, the authors searched for studies of the effects of UCTs on health services use and health outcomes in children and adults in LMICs. They restricted their searches to articles published in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish and did the most recent search in September 2021. They included 20randomized trials, 6 controlled before-after study, and 3 cohort studies, which were from Burkina Faso (1 study), Colombia (1), Ecuador (3), India (1), Indonesia (2), Kenya (6), Lesotho (2), Malawi (5), Mexico (4) Nigeria (1), South Africa (2), Uruguay, Zambia (2) and Zimbabwe (2). They also identified an additional 9 articles, which are awaiting assessment.

What was found: UCTs probably or may improve some health outcomes (such as likelihood of having had any illness and secure access to food, and dietary diversity), likelihood of attending school and living in extreme poverty, and healthcare expenditure.

The difference in health effects between unconditional and conditional cash transfers is uncertain.

Implications: The authors of the review stated that more evidence from experimental studies is required to enhance the current limited and uncertain body of evidence on UCTs and health.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of place of residence and socioeconomic status.


This summary was prepared by Ana Pizarro, edited and finalized by Mike Clarke

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