What is Integration?

To get started, a working definition of integration is needed.  To define integration in a general sense is challenging because integration can hold several different meanings and can be interpreted in so many ways.  To some, integration is just a collaboration to achieve unity of efforts.  To others, it is improvements by multi-faceted or holistic approaches.  It has also been defined as linkages between policies, programs and/or services.  All of these definitions are accurate.

Integration is opportunity-oriented and community-driven when addressing global health and development needs.  There are many missed opportunities for reaching more beneficiaries, addressing more needs, and maximizing interventions.  But with integrated thinking and planning we can overcome many of these missed opportunities and tackle international health and development obstacles with better attention to comprehensiveness and efficiencies.

To provide a constructive definition, we want to define integration in terms of its benefits when implemented in the field of international health.  With integration comes an ability to solve common problems and reach expanded audiences.  It has shown to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness – it does so by reducing fragmentation, eliminating redundancy, merging funding, leveraging efforts/resources, and pooling expertise.  Most importantly, however, is the ability to improve the overall health status, user satisfaction and convenience for all parties, particularly the participants/beneficiaries/families that are being served.  Below are various working definitions of integration.

  • In 2011, the W.H.O. Technical Working Group defined integration as ‘the organization, coordination, and management of multiple activities and resources to ensure the delivery of more efficient and coherent services in relation to cost, output, impact, and use...’. [i]
  • The World Health Organization has a definition of integrated service delivery which is, ‘the management and delivery of health services so that clients receive a continuum of preventative and curative services, according to their needs over time and across different levels of the health system’. [i]
  • Integrated approaches deliver a range of interventions that address multiple needs through coordination across a variety of sectors and with participation of all relevant stakeholders to achieve common goals. [i]
  • According to Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967, integration is defined as ‘the quality of the state of collaboration that exists among departments that are required to achieve unity of effort by the demands of the environment’. [i]
  • Rachel Choy, 2000, defines integration as ‘improvements through a multi-faceted approach; this will involve an integration of the services provided by the government, community groups, churches and non-government organizations’. [i]