PHE Approach

Population growth, health issues and unsustainable resource use drive the loss of natural habitats and resources and often lead to a spiral of increased poverty and environmental degradation. Malnutrition, HIV-AIDS, lack of proper sanitation services, malaria and other health issues often force people to exploit nature.

Population, health and environment (PHE) initiatives acknowledge and address the complex connection between humans, their health and their environment. The key objective of these efforts is to simultaneously improve access to health services, especially family planning services and reproductive health care, while also helping communities to manage their natural resources in ways that improve their health and livelihoods and to conserve the critical ecosystems upon which they depend. The integrated nature of the PHE approach results in population, health, and environment interventions that are delivered in a coordinated and synergistic fashion at the community level.

The philosophy underlying all PHE efforts is that an integrated, intersectoral approach to meeting communities' family planning, health and natural resource management needs produces synergies that make this approach more effective and sustainable than delivering these services in stand-alone or parallel programs. When family planning is widely available and accessible, couples are better able to achieve their desired family size.

This not only benefits families' health and wellbeing, but contributes to better management and conservation of natural resources and eases population pressures on local ecosystems. Smaller, healthier families contribute to long-term environmental gains as population pressure on natural resources and ecosystems is reduced. Providing basic health services that are integrated with environmental interventions can dramatically reduce community morbidity and mortality and at the same time increase community support for the environmental interventions. By helping to preserve healthy ecosystems through sound natural resource management, PHE activities help ensure communities' food, shelter, energy, and livelihood needs can be met.

PHE initiatives mainly operate in remote and ecologically sensitive landscapes where communities often have little access to health services, particularly family planning. Population growth due to high fertility often places unsustainable pressure on biodiversity as more land is cleared for cultivation, waters are over-fished, and harvesting of natural resources is increased to support the livelihoods of a growing population. Yet, it is in these same remote rural areas where unmet need for family planning is often highest.

To learn more about the PHE approach:

Take USAID's online course at www.globalhealthlearning.org. Click on "Courses", then select "Population, Health, and Environment Basics."