Why Integrate P, H, and E

It makes sense

Humans and their environment are inextricably linked, especially in a future where climate change, natural disasters and ecosystem changes pose serious threats to human health, food security, and sustainable development. Natural systems provide water, food, medicines, building materials for shelter, and fuel wood. Healthy natural systems provide additional ecosystem services such as water storage, purification of air and water, prevention of flooding, erosion and landslides, and climate regulation. Yet, people are using natural resources and degrading natural systems at alarming rates. Population growth stands to accelerate this crisis.

Integrated PHE projects address this reality by tackling the root cause vs. the symptoms of a situation. For example, population growth is often the underlying driver for immediate threats to biodiversity such as habitat conversion. Recognizing this, conservation organizations may develop better relationships with communities if they integrate a health component into their programs—thus responding to an important community need in a very tangible way. Similarly, health organizations can integrate natural resources management (NRM) into their own programs—or link with existing NRM programs—to gain access to communities and clients that might otherwise be impractical or too expensive to reach. By combining resources, both health and NRM organizations can potentially implement their projects more efficiently, including the sharing of costs for transportation and field staff.

Integrated projects can work with a wider variety of frameworks

Integrated projects encourage the active involvement of a broader segment of the community and increase the participation of women and youth in resource management. Conventionally, NRM programs are considered to be the realm of men, and family planning as the domain of women. In integrated projects, however, men are tapped not only for conservation of natural resources, but also for reproductive health (RH) activities. In fact, men have long played a central role in RH as service providers/educators/advocates in order to increase contraceptive use, address men’s reproductive health needs, and promote more equitable relations between the sexes. Conversely, women have become more engaged in conservation activities.

The PHE approach also addresses other critical quality of life issues such as food and income security—issues only exacerbated by growing population pressures. The good news is that the integrated PHE approach educates communities on these and other critical links between health, family planning and resource management and motivates community members to take action that can have a positive influence on the trajectory of these trends.