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The Coastal Resources Center (CRC) at the University of Rhode Island leads the BALANCED (Building Actors and Leaders for Advancing Community Excellence in Development) Project, an innovative five-year initiative to improve access to health services, especially family planning, secure livelihoods and help conserve the critical biodiversity and natural resources upon which people depend. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, this project takes a holistic, intersectoral approach to developmentā€”one that acknowledges and addresses the complex relationships between people, their health and their environment.

Roughly one-sixth, or 1.1 billion of the world's almost 7 billion people live in biologically rich areas that provide important ecosystem resources and serve as habitat to diverse species. Populations living in these areas depend on the resources and services provided to them by stable, healthy ecosystems. Yet these same areas are also often the most threatened by human activity. Population growth in these ecologically rich and important regions is nearly 40 percent greater than the average global rate. Further, people who live in these remote areas often have the least access to basic health services and education. Population health and environment (PHE) programs address this reality with an integrated, multisectoral approach that mirrors the community's true needs.

Families, communities and policymakers in areas of biodiversity recognize the benefits of integrated PHE interventions. They report seeing important links between family planning and the ongoing conservation and livelihood projects and they perceive that women involved in livelihood activities will be more empowered to make decisions about family planning.