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Exploring Women's Participation in a U.S. Microcredit Program


Dr. Rebekah Salt, MSC09 5350 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-5688. E-mail:


Purpose: The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore and describe women's participation in a U.S. microcredit program in the Pacific Northwest and to examine the relationship between the participants’ businesses and their health.

Design and Methodology: In 2006, an ethnographic study was conducted with a microcredit organization in the Pacific Northwest using the following methods: (a) 10 audiotaped, semistructured interviews with clientele; (b) observation of microcredit groups four times a month for 6 months; (c) conversations with organization executive directors; and (d) review of organizational documents. The participants were women 32 to 64 years of age who had received one or more loans from the microcredit organization.

Findings: Four broad themes emerged from the data: (a) Microcredit: The introduction; (b) Microcredit: The place; (c) Stereotypes; and (d) Health. Despite the challenges associated with participation, all of the study participants were enthusiastic about the advantages of microcredit and would recommend it to others.

Conclusions: Many international microcredit organizations have incorporated health care and health education into their programs and have reported successful economic and social outcomes for women. In the United States (US), reports are varied, and there is a lack of literature that explores the economic and health link that is addressed in some international microcredit literature. The findings from this study might be used to initiate discussions around conjoint health education programs and microcredit as a health intervention.

Clinical Relevance: Nurses, as a trusted presence in the community, are in a position to partner with microcredit organizations to improve the health of clientele.