Objective: To assess the impact of health promotion programs and microcredit programs on three communities in the Dominican Republic. One community had only the health promotion program, one community had only the microcredit program, and one community had both a health promotion program and a microcredit program. This pilot project examined the hypothesis that the largest changes in 11 health indicators that were studied would be in the community with both a health promotion program and a microcredit program, that there would be intermediate changes in the community with only a health promotion program, and that the smallest changes would be in the community with only a microcredit program.
Methods: The health promotion programs used community volunteers to address two major concerns: (1) the prevalent causes of mortality among children under 5 years of age and (2) women's health (specifically breast and cervical cancer screening). The microcredit program made small loans to individuals to start or expand small businesses. Outcome measures were based on comparisons for 11 health indicators from baseline community surveys (27 households surveyed in each of the three communities, done in December 2000 and January 2001) and from follow-up surveys (also 27 households surveyed in each of the three communities, in June and July 2002, after the health promotion program had been operating for about 13 months). Households were randomly chosen during both the baseline and follow-up surveys, without regard to their involvement in the microcredit or health promotion programs.
Results: The health indicators improved in all three communities. However, the degree of change was different among the communities (P < 0.001). The community with parallel microcredit and health promotion programs had the largest changes for 10 of the 11 health indicators.
Conclusions: Multisector development is known to be important on a macroeconomic scale. The results of this pilot project support the view that multisector development is also important on a microeconomic level, given that the parallel microcredit and health promotion programs resulted in greater change in the measured health indicators than either program alone. As far as we authors know, this is the first published study to quantify changes in health indicators related to parallel health promotion and microcredit programs as compared to control communities with only a health promotion program or a microcredit program.