Article Text

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
  1. Arjumand Siddiqi1,2,3,
  2. Akshay Rajaram4,
  3. Steven P Miller2
  1. 1Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Arjumand Siddiqi, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5T 3M7, Canada; aa.siddiqi{at}


Introduction 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.

Methods 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.

Results 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.

Discussion 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.

  • policy
  • health inequalities
  • cash transfer program

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  • Contributors AS conceptualised and wrote the study. AR conducted the literature search, under the guidance of AS. AR and SPM refined the conceptualisation of the study, developed the search strategy and provided feedback on drafts.

  • Funding AS is supported by the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity. SPM is supported by the Bloorview Children’s Hospital Chair in Paediatric Neuroscience.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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