From wealth to health: evaluating microfinance as a complex intervention

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  • McHugh, N. et al (2017) From wealth to health: evaluating microfinance as a complex intervention

    Rights statement: © The Author(s) 2017 This is an open access article published by SAGE in Evaluation on 18 April 2017 at This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209–225
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Early online date18 Apr 2017
StatePublished - Apr 2017


Innovative interventions that address the social determinants of health are required to help reduce persistent health inequalities. We argue that microcredit can act in this way and develop a conceptual framework from which to examine this. In seeking to evaluate microcredit this way we then examine how randomized controlled trials, currently considered as the ‘gold standard’ in impact evaluations of microcredit, compare with developments in thinking about
study design in public health. This leads us to challenge the notion of trials as the apparent gold standard for microcredit evaluations and contend that the pursuit of trial-based evidence alone may be hampering the production of relevant evidence on microcredit’s public health (and other wider) impacts. In doing so, we introduce new insights into the global debate on microfinance impact evaluation, related to ethical issues in staging randomized controlled trials, and propose innovations on complementary methods for use in the evaluation of complex interventions.


  • complex interventions, ethics, health, microfinance, RCTs

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