Proponents of integrated development have always faced significant barriers, but with a new focus on international aid from the Obama administration, the tide may be turning. To fully harness this momentum, Gib Clarke argues in a new ECSP brief that the population-health-environment (PHE) community must solidify its research base
, reach out to new partners, and push for flexible funding and programming.
In “Helping Hands: A Livelihood Approach to Population, Health, and Environment Programs,” he writes that PHE programs should also add livelihoods (i.e., ways to make a living) as a critical element. He suggests such programs adopt a new moniker: “HELP” – Health, Environment, Livelihoods, and Population.
“Helping Hands” comes at a time when the integrated approach is being touted at the highest levels:
“We cannot simply confront individual preventable illnesses in isolation. The world is interconnected, and that demands an integrated approach to global health,” said President Barack Obama in May 2009, echoing what population-health-environment (PHE) practitioners have long argued: Integrated lives with integrated problems require integrated solutions. Proponents of integration face significant barriers: lack of funding, programmatic silos, and policy disinterest.While the Administration’s newest development efforts (see, e.g., Feed the Future Initiative, Global Health Initiative, and release of the QDDR) all recognize the power of integration, the degree to which these initiatives will operate across sectors remains to be seen. Drawing on interviews with leading experts, Clarke outlines the continuing challenges to implementing more integrated PHE programs and offers four recommendations for overcoming them:
“Given the strong base of existing and recent PHE programs, the PHE community is well-positioned to work with lead partners in Obama’s Global Health Initiative, climate change adaptation efforts, food security programs, and other upcoming crosscutting work,” concludes Clarke, who is currently director of planning and development at Interfaith Community Health Center in Bellingham, Washington. For example, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stated that the Feed the Future program would be closely integrating its objectives with the Global Health Initiative – a potential opportunity for PHE programs that offer both health benefits and food security.
- The PHE community should adopt a new name that highlights the all-important livelihood component, such as “HELP Plus.”
- PHE programs need to gather data and conduct operational research to justify the claims of the PHE field.
- The PHE community needs to “agree to disagree” on the issue of scaling up integrated programs.
- PHE programs should seek funding from a diverse array of donors.
“This increased interest in integration may also be the best opportunity for finding new funding, fostering replication, and scaling up. It is a promising moment for integrated approaches, whether we call them PHE, HELP Plus, or some other acronym,” writes Clarke.
“Helping Hands: A Livelihood Approach to Population, Health, and Environment Programs” along with previous FOCUS issues are available on ECSP’s publications page.
Image Credit: From the cover of “Helping Hands: A Livelihood Approach to Population, Health, and Environment Programs,” courtesy of the Wilson Center.