Environmental health planning
Environmental health planning refers to a systematic process by which goals are established, facts are gathered and analysed, alternative proposals and programmes are considered and compared, resources are measured, priorities are established, and strategies and activities are designed to meet the established goals or objectives within a specified period of time. You may be requested to prepare an environmental health plan. The following planning steps are suggested.
1) Identifying the needs and gaps
This is essentially an inventory (or list) of problems related to environmental health in your local context. You can use various tools in order to identify these problems.
- Environmental health survey: This is a systematic survey using a questionnaire. The questionnaire contains basic indicators of environmental health such as latrine availability, source of drinking water, waste disposal systems, cleanliness of the community, etc. You will need to do some statistical analysis (proportions and averages) to refine basic indicators of environmental health for your local context. You must be careful when designing a survey as it requires time, expertise and resources. You can plan it in coordination with the district environmental healthworker.
- Rapid/quick assessment: This is the usual method that helps you gain a quick overview of the range of problems. The usual data collection tools that you can use for this are focused or group discussion, physical observation with checklists and interviewing people.
2) Priority setting
It is difficult to handle all identified problems due to resource limitations. You need to know in advance the available resources in the community. Resources can be mobilised from government, community, private organisations and NGOs. Do not rely too much on governmental resources as there are always limitations. Mobilising community resources is the best option that could be sustained. Priorities are then made on the basis of the depth and severity of the problem, the feasibility and the degree of community concern and willingness to be involved in the resource mobilisation.
3) Writing a planning report
This is a systematic description of the planning functions. The recommended sub-titles are:
- Title of the plan
- Introduction or background
- Strategies and activities
- Resources (i.e. budget, human resource and materials)
- Plan of action (i.e. activities by time and responsible person)
You should prepare and present an annual plan of action for improvement of hygiene and environmental health. The plan of action needs careful consideration of your work in the community. The activities in the plan should include identifying problems, inspection services (households, food establishments, public utilities such as water sources, health facilities), hygiene promotion, monitoring selected indicators, sanitation promotion, training of local partners, sanitation campaigns and commemorating sanitation and water days.
4) Implementing the plan
Once the plan has been approved, it can be implemented. Environmental health activities are put into practice on the ground at this stage.
5) Monitoring and evaluating the planned performance
Daily, weekly or monthly monitoring will help you check the progress of the implementation, while evaluating performance at the end of the year is useful to help you see the overall progress.
6) Learning by doing
You will be able to learn lessons from the experience of the previous year's implementation and the achievements and failures.