Women’s health in the U.S. attracts development-bond interest



ImpactAlpha, April 24 – When the state of South Carolina announced a $30 million impact bond for low-income maternal and child health in December, some of the baseline statistics sounded more like those of a developing country. More than a quarter of South Carolina’s children — 280,000 kids — live in poverty.

More than half the state’s babies are born to low-income mothers. As a whole, the U.S. has the worst (and worsening) maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Unlike in most advanced economies, U.S. women’s access to health care varies widely depending on race, location and income. American women also pay more for care than men.

In India, a development impact bond to reduce maternal and infant mortality is being tested in Rajasthan, where the $3.5 million “Utkrisht” bond (Hindi for “excellence”) hopes to prevent 10,000 deaths over the next five years by expanding private neonatal health and delivery services to 600,000 women. A report last year identified 11 health-related development-impact bonds in developing countries, including for cataracts, diabetes prevention and maternal care.

Now comes Impact Investment Exchange, a Singapore-based impact finance advisor, which is studying the feasibility of an impact bond for women’s health in the U.S. A grant from the Medtronic Foundation will let IIX identify gaps in health services, financing, and health outcomes measurement that could be used in structuring such a bond, which IIX says could raise $100 million.

  • Women’s livelihood… Last July, IIX raised $8 million for a Singapore-listed Women’s Livelihood Bond for low-income women in Asia.

“I am confident that we will move the needle for women’s health in the U.S.,” IIX’s Durreen Shahnaz said in statement. “Women’s health matters and should be valued for what it is—the backbone of the health of our communities.”

It has helped health startups like ERC and Pacific Baby raise capital and aims to catalyze $1 billion in impact investments by 2022.

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