Summary: Demand-side financing approaches have been introduced in a number of low and middle-income countries, with a particular emphasis on sexual and reproductive health. This paper aims to bring together the global evidence on demand-side financing mechanisms, their impact on the delivery of sexual and reproductive health services, and the conditions under which they have been effective. The paper begins with a discussion of modalities for demand-side financing. It then examines 13 existing schemes, including cash incentives, vouchers, and longer term social protection policies. Based on the available literature, it collates evidence of their impact on utilization of services, access for the poor, financial protection, quality of care, and health outcomes. Evidence on costs and cost-effectiveness are examined, along with analysis of funding and sustainability of policies. Finally, the paper discusses the preconditions for effectiveness of demand-side financing schemes and the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches. It also highlights the extent to which results for sexual and reproductive health services are likely to be generalizable to other types of health care. It is clear that some of these policies can produce impressive results, if the preconditions for effectiveness outlined are met. However, relatively few demand-side financing schemes have benefited from robust evaluation. Investigation of the impact on financial protection, equity, and health outcomes has been limited. Most importantly, cost effectiveness and the relative cost effectiveness of demand-side financing in relation to other strategies for achieving similar goals have not been assessed.
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