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Medical News and Perspectives
July 14, 2004

Small Loans Yield Big Health Profits

JAMA. 2004;292(2):159-160. doi:10.1001/jama.292.2.159

In countries hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, basic needs often go unfulfilled, rendering medical care an unattainable dream. But one innovative program—a kind of public health perpetual-motion machine—is helping families cope with the epidemic by providing the means to allow them to help themselves .

Run by Project HOPE, a Norfolk, Va, nonprofit organization, the 11-year-old Village Health Bank offers small loans to collectives of 10 to 20 women in Malawi, Thailand, and 5 other developing countries. Women who receive loans attend twice-monthly health education sessions, tailored to local needs, while repaying the principal and small amounts of interest.