Harnessing Synergy in Integrated Population, Health and Environment Programming
In the town of Concepcion, people think twice about the matter of conception.
For the last five years, family planning has been serious business in this coastal town of P34,000 people. Managing population growth has been key to its survival. After all, what determines quality of life is how well a community feeds its population.
The trouble Concepcion faced fived years ago can be summed up in a simple equation: too many people, not enough resources, a depleted environment and shrinking income.
On March 15, 2000, Dr. Raul N. Banias, the town mayor, launched an all-encompassing program that sounded all too ambitious. Called Harnessing Synergy in Integrated Population, Health and Environment Programming, the program chose to tackle the thorny issue of population management through family planning.
In the Philippines, mere endorsement of family planning by a politician could be tantamount to political suicide. But Dr. Banias risked rousing a sleeping giant–the Church–in Concepcion’s pursuit of a quality life.
“Surprisingly, there was no violent reaction from the Church,” says Dr. Helen Minguez, Concepcion municipal health officer and Population Health Environment manager.
The program has three components: population, health and environment, or PHE. In many developing countries, unbridled population growth has been tied to environmental degradation. Three strategies were employed: appreciative community mobilization that targeted marginalized groups, initiating them on PHE; experience-based advocacy, which made use of community experiences on PHE; and behavior-centered programming that formed the basis for the creation of communication materials. A total of 23,968 people, or 70% of the town’s population living in 25 barangays, took part in the program. These were mostly women, children, indigents, fisher folk and marginal farmers. From 2002 to 2004, the town spent P70 million on health and environment programs. This year, a budget of P22.6 million was set aside for the program.
Today, Concepcion is reaping a harvest. Fish catch grew by five kilos and income rose by P200 per day. Infant mortality rates and crude birth rates have gone down.
Concepcion has finally achieved a balance.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.