An interesting chapter in K. S. Mohindra’s ‘Women’s Health and Poverty Alleviation in India’ (www.academicfoundation.com) is about the relationship between microcredit and health.

Greater income can support healthy food choices, making it possible to purchase non-staple foods, and reduce consumption of those unhealthy foods, high in fat and refined sugar, which are often cheap and fast meals, she writes. “With rising income, health-promoting and hygienic practices are increasingly adopted,” reads a citing from a research study.

Increased access to economic resources can enhance autonomy and awareness, and help expand one’s action space, the author finds. “More economic resources can also improve a woman’s ability to manage her own illness by enabling her to purchase the necessary drugs and healthy technology.”

Among the published papers that Mohindra mentions in the book are those by Albert Bandura and Anton Antonovsky, in the context of ‘self-efficacy’ and ‘sense of coherence.’

Bandura speaks of how acquiring skills such as financial management or income-generation abilities can increase a woman’s self-efficacy, which is her belief in her ability to produce a desired effect.

“Individuals with a strong sense of self-efficacy tend to approach challenges from a point of view of mastery rather than fear; they set high goals and commit to them… Self-efficacy influences the production channel by increasing the adoption of healthier behaviours and reducing exposure to health risks. Self-efficacy can also increase a woman’s coping skills and her abilities for self-management of illness.”

Life experiences acquired through microcredit participation may contribute to the development of a woman’s sense of coherence, explains Mohindra. Three components of coherence, as Antonovsky lists are: “(i) comprehensibility, the extent to which a woman can cognitively make sense of her external environment; (ii) manageability, the extent to which a woman perceives that her available resources can be used to control the demands of her environment; and (iii) meaningfulness, the extent to which a woman’s life makes emotional sense.”

Important insights.

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