Taxonomy of Integration

“The problems of the world are interrelated and so, therefore, must the solutions be….”

Already determined, the term ‘integration’ has many definitions.  In order to adequately understand and address the challenges and opportunities associated with integration, it is important to unpack or dissect the various possible meanings of the word so that context-specific solutions can be developed for context-specific situations.  This framework on integration is designed to do just that, in order to get program designers, managers and decision makers to think more specifically, but within a broader context, about how best to move towards integration in situations where it applies.  Below are important concepts that are inherent in and fundamental for, integrated or systems thinking:

  • Person or Family Centered Care
    • Not putting a particular disease or specific problem at the center of our attention when thinking of integrating is important.  If we put the person or community affected by disease X or with condition Z at the center of our focus, then we will automatically be thinking in integration terms because we will automatically have to address the myriad of influences, needs, gaps, opportunities, etc. that are facing that person or community.
  • Community-based or Community-driven Primary Health Care
    • This can be defined as ‘essential health care based on appropriate, acceptable methods and technology, made universally accessible through community participation’.  It is important to remember that the majority of health care (prevention, care, treatment, follow-up) is actually provided in the home, mostly by female caregivers and/or mothers.  This links, therefore, to the person or family centered care concept.  The failure to realize this on the part of more disease or treatment oriented medicalized systems of care is a major contributing factor to the lack of access, trust, good care-seeking behaviors, etc. that we find in many solutions.
  • Life Cycle Approach
    • This can be defined as ‘the set of states a person or other entity goes through from birth to death’.  This is a fundamental to maternal and child health (MCH) for example, where an emphasis is placed on keeping young girls healthy if they are to be healthy women, healthy mothers, with healthy children.
  • Continuum of Care Approach
    • This can be defined as the ‘provision of comprehensive care from the hospital to the home, which advocates the pooling together of medical and social services within the community and the creation of linkages between community care initiatives at all levels of the health care system’.  This is the idea that prevention, treatment, maintenance/adherence, follow-up, etc. for something like HIV/AIDS are all interconnected and all necessary for good health.