Health Affairs 35(10): 1800-1809, 2016 (with Manoj Mohanan, Kim Singer Babiarz, Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, and Marcos Vera-Hernández)
Despite the rapid growth of social franchising, there is little evidence on its population impact in the health sector. Similar in many ways to private-sector commercial franchising, social franchising can be found in sectors with a social objective, such as health care. This article evaluates the World Health Partners (WHP) Sky program, a large-scale social franchising and telemedicine program in Bihar, India. We studied appropriate treatment for childhood diarrhea and pneumonia and associated health care outcomes. We used multivariate difference-in-differences models to analyze data on 67,950 children ages five and under in 2011 and 2014. We found that the WHP-Sky program did not improve rates of appropriate treatment or disease prevalence. Both provider participation and service use among target populations were low. Our results do not imply that social franchising cannot succeed; instead, they underscore the importance of understanding factors that explain variation in the performance of social franchises. Our findings also highlight, for donors and governments in particular, the importance of conducting rigorous impact evaluations of new and potentially innovative health care delivery programs before investing in scaling them up.