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01.12.2012 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2012

Toward a typology of health-related informal credit: an exploration of borrowing practices for paying for health care by the poor in Cambodia

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2012
Por Ir, Bart Jacobs, Bruno Meessen, Wim Van Damme
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1472-6963-12-383) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

We declare that we have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

PI developed the study, collected and analysed the data, and wrote the research report on which this paper is based. In addition, he contributed to writing the final draft as well as revising and finalizing the accepted manuscript. BJ did the literature review and wrote the manuscript for submission and contributed to writing the revised and final version of this paper. BM and WVD provided content expertise throughout the design and implementation of the study, and contributed to the final version of the manuscript for submission. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Borrowing money is a common strategy to cope with health care costs. The impact of borrowing on households can be severe, leading to indebtedness and further impoverishment. However, the available literature on borrowing practices for health is limited. We explore borrowing practices for paying for health care by the poor in Cambodia and provide a typology, associated conditions, and the extent of the phenomenon.


In addition to a semi-structured literature review, in-depth interviews were conducted with representatives of 47 households with health-related debt and 19 managers of formal or informal credit schemes.


A large proportion of Cambodians, especially the poor, resort to borrowing to meet the cost of health care. Because of limited cash flow and access to formal creditors, the majority take out loans with high interest rates from informal money lenders. The most common type of informal credit is locally known as Changkar and consists of five kinds of loans: short-term loans, medium-term loans, seasonal loans, loans for an unspecified period, and loans with repayment in labour, each with different lending and repayment conditions and interest rates.


This study suggests the importance of informal credit for coping with the cost of treatment and its potentially negative impact on the livelihood of Cambodian people. We provide directions for further studies on financial protection interventions to mitigate harmful borrowing practices to pay for health care in Cambodia.
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