News Release

Redesigning the welfare system around a digital credential for greater inclusivity and security

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

May 3, 2023--- New research from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health outlines a revolutionary approach for vulnerable populations to more easily receive welfare benefits. Linking one’s individual data using a digital credential would provide better access and support to those most at risk who would no longer need to go through the cumbersome application process of the existing welfare system. The findings are published online in Milbank Quarterly.

“The current welfare system can be an insurmountable barrier for those who need assistance the most, including the homeless, handicapped, and mentally ill,” said Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, professor of health policy and management at Columbia Public Health. “By implementing a digital credential system, we can significantly reduce the burden of welfare receipt for these marginalized communities, ensuring they receive the help they deserve.”

Digital credentials have been shown to be more secure than traditional systems, reducing the risk of fraud and abuse. The adoption of this technology would guarantee that resources are allocated to those in genuine need, making the welfare system more efficient and equitable.

Key findings of the research include:

  • The digital credential system would simplify the welfare application process, removing barriers to access for those who are most vulnerable.
  • A digital credential is more secure, protecting against fraud and ensuring resources are allocated to those in need.
  • This innovative approach has the potential to transform the lives of millions, providing critical support to disadvantaged populations.

The study urges policymakers to consider these findings and take immediate action to redesign the welfare system. “Adopting a digital credential will ensure that everyone in need can receive welfare benefits without facing unnecessary hurdles, making our society more inclusive and compassionate,” noted Muennig.

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the fourth largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its nearly 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change and health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with more than 1,300 graduate students from 55 nations pursuing a variety of master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit







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