Do conditional cash transfers reduce hypertension?

Progresa, an anti-poverty conditional cash transfer program, has been a model for similar programs in more than 60 countries. Numerous studies have found positive impacts on schooling, the nutritional and health status of children and adolescents, and household consumption. However, the effects on the health of older adult beneficiaries have been particularly understudied. In this paper we analyze the effects of Progresa on middle-aged and older adult health, focusing on a high prevalence chronic condition: hypertension. Our results show that Progresa had significant benefits in terms of improved hypertension diagnosis and use of treatment drugs. However, we did not find significant changes in uncontrolled hypertension as measured by systolic and diastolic blood pressure biomarkers in household survey data. Thus, while cash transfer programs may facilitate financial access to healthcare visits and the ability to buy prescribed medicines, by itself the program might not improve hypertension outcomes without complementary healthcare system follow-up to ensure dosage titration and medication adherence.