Integrated approaches to development are gaining traction, especially as the global development community observes the one-year commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which highlight the interrelated relationships between many development sectors. One such integrated approach is known as Population, Health, and Environment (PHE), which seeks to provide voluntary family planning, improve people’s health, and conserve the environment in rural communities in an integrated, multisectoral manner.

As part of efforts to share cross-cutting information and increase dialogue and visibility of multisectoral approaches, Population Reference Bureau (PRB)’s Policy, Advocacy, and Communication Enhanced for Population and Reproductive Health (PACE) project launched a revised Population, Health, and the Environment course for USAID’s Global Health eLearning (GHeL) Center, managed by the Knowledge for Health project (K4Health).

Robert Engelman, senior fellow and former president of Worldwatch Institute noted, "Organizations working on conservation and rural development often bring much-needed health care, including family planning, to communities requesting these services in the world’s most remote and biologically diverse places. Anyone wanting to understand how PHE works in these communities, and what the excitement around this integration is about, should carve out a couple hours to absorb the wealth of information, case studies, and colorful photos that this course provides."

In order to update the course, PACE reviewed the structure, objectives, and purpose of the original PHE course on the GHeL website, which was almost 10 years old, and developed a new, self-guided PHE course designed to engage and educate users. The course includes new modules on policy, advocacy, and communication; scale up; and the SDGs, as well as information on PHE linkages with climate change adaptation and mitigation. The course is designed to engage the learner through vivid examples and case studies that apply the knowledge presented in the course to PHE projects from around the world. As Jason Bremner, director of Data and Performance Management, Family Planning 2020, said, "Over the last decade so much has happened in PHE and the community has grown in so many ways, including new organizations, a growing number of projects, new networks, and new areas of focus including resilience, climate change, and the SDGs. This new PHE course brings together the most recent decade of knowledge and is an excellent primer for both those new to PHE and the experienced PHE practitioner looking for recent resources. The next generation of PHE leaders has a strong foundation of knowledge to build upon, and this course will help them take the field forward in new and exciting directions."

Clive Mutunga, Population, Environment, and Development technical advisor, USAID, said, "As the SDG agenda moves to national policy and program implementation, there will be increasing attention to approaches that facilitate multisectoral integration across policies and programs. PHE is an approach which has important lessons for the global development community given its ability to meet multiple SDGs in an integrated manner. This course provides lessons from around the world on the PHE approach."

The course is organized into six sessions, with quizzes and a final exam to gauge learning, and many resources to guide development practitioners interested in PHE. A rich bibliography of resources is also available to all learners as part of the course. "I am excited that the new course has evolved from the original one that I reviewed in 2007, which reflects the evolution of PHE as a respected community-centered approach that meets people’s essential development needs—particularly those centered around reproductive health—while recognizing the intertwined relationships between people’s health, their environment, and sustainability," said Kristen P. Patterson, program director for Population, Health, and Environment for PRB.

The revised PHE eLearning course will help development practitioners, policy advocates, and others interested in integrated approaches to development understand how and why the PHE approach is an efficient and effective way for countries to achieve the SDGs, and a means of increasing equity for family planning and health services in remote communities.