Exploring health equity in Lesotho's Child Grants Programme

Despite their growing popularity, little is known about how cash transfers (CTs) can affect health equity in targeted communities. Lesotho’s Child Grants Programme (CGP) is an unconditional CT targeting poor and vulnerable households with children. Started in 2009, the CGP is one of Lesotho’s key programmes in developing the country’s social protection system. Using the CGP’s early phases as a case study, this research aims to capture how programme stakeholders understood and operationalized the concept of health equity in Lesotho’s CGP. The qualitative analysis relied on the triangulation of findings from a desk review and semi-structured key informant interviews with programme stakeholders. The programme documents were coded deductively and the interview transcripts inductively. Both materials were analysed thematically before triangulating their findings. We explored determining factors for differences or disagreements within a theme according to the programme’s chronology, the stakeholders’ affiliations and their role(s) in the CGP. The definitions of health equity in the context of the CGP reflected an awareness among stakeholders of these issues and their determinants but also the challenges raised by the complex (or even debated) nature of the concept. The most common definition of this concept focused on children’s access to health services for the most disadvantaged households, suggesting a narrow, targeted approach to health equity as targeting disadvantages. Yet, even the most common definition of this concept was not fully translated into the programme, especially in the day-to-day operations and reporting at the local level. This operationalization gap affected the study of selected health spillover effects of the CGP on health equity and might have undermined other programme impacts related to specific health disadvantages or gaps. As equity objectives become more prominent in CTs, understanding their meaning and translation into concrete, observable and measurable applications in programmes are essential to support impact.