Energizing Community Health Improvement: The Promise of Microgrants
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Energizing Community Health Improvement: The Promise of Microgrants

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    The Healthy Carolinians community microgrants project provided microgrants to community-based organizations (CBOs) across North Carolina. These grants were made to serve as a catalyst to engage the CBOs in health promotion activities that addressed Healthy People 2010 objectives. The purpose of this initiative was to increase the awareness of Healthy People 2010 objectives, mobilize resources, and create new partners in community health improvement.


    In 1993, Healthy Carolinians, a statewide network of public–private partnerships, was established at the county level to address North Carolina's health objectives that aligned with national Healthy People 2010 objectives. This network of Healthy Carolinians partnerships provided the vehicle for distributing the microgrants.


    Funding was distributed to 32 Healthy Carolinians partnerships that, in turn, awarded 199 microgrants ($2010 each) to CBOs to address state and national health objectives. Each CBO selected its own objectives based on Healthy People 2010 objectives and designed its own interventions. Surveys of the CBO project managers and final reports were used for evaluation. A survey of the Healthy Carolinians partnership coordinators provided additional insight.


    Of the 199 surveys mailed to CBOs, 153 (77%) responded. Nearly half (43.7%) of the microgrants were used to focus on three major health risk factors: 27.1% on physical activity and fitness, 13.1% on nutrition and overweight, and 3.5% on tobacco use. At the end of the project, 96.1% of the respondents reported that they were familiar with the Healthy People 2010 objectives. Final reports showed that an estimated 52,739 hours of CBO staff and volunteer time were contributed to microgrant programs. All Healthy Carolinians partnership coordinators responded to a survey; 100% stated that they had new access to priority populations within their community.


    The Healthy Carolinians microgrant project demonstrated a cost-effective, alternative approach to funding community-based health promotion and injury control activities. This model was decentralized, so it empowered communities and CBOs to be responsible for community health improvement. Public health professionals with limited funds should consider this alternative approach, which mobilized existing community organizations and effectively addressed national and state health objectives.

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