HIA Introduction

About Health Impact Assessment

What is Health Impact Assessment?

HIA is a process that helps evaluate the potential health effects of a plan, project or policy before it is built or implemented. An HIA can provide recommendations to increase positive health outcomes and minimize health disparities. HIA brings potential public health impacts and considerations to the decision-making process for plans, projects, and policies that fall outside the traditional public health arenas, such as transportation and land use.

Why include HIA in the planning process?

There are a number of reasons to use an HIA while developing a plan or policy for a neighborhood, corridor, or city:

  • HIA assists decision-makers during the plan adoption process
  • HIA can help articulate the potential risks and benefits that a plans’ strategies may have on a community’s health
  • HIA bring data and evidence-based research to the decision makers to help in the planning process
  • HIA can highlight the health inequities in a community and promote the needs of vulnerable populations
  • HIA can increase opportunities for engaging the community in the planning process

In practice, HIA is a useful way to

  • Ensure health outcomes are considered in decision-making process
  • Engage stakeholders in the planning process

How is HIA done?

A typical HIA includes six steps:

 

 

  • Screening – Determine whether an HIA is needed and likely to be useful.
  • Scoping – In consultation with stakeholders, develop a plan for the HIA, including the identification of potential health risks and benefits.
  • Assessment – Describe the baseline health of affected communities and assess the potential impacts of the decision.
  • Recommendations – Develop practical solutions that can be implemented within the political, economic, or technical limitations of the project or policy being assessed.
  • Reporting – Disseminate the findings to decision makers, affected communities and other stakeholders.
  • Monitoring – Monitor the changes in health or health risk factors and evaluate the efficacy of the measures that are implemented and the HIA Process as a whole.

Is HIA time consuming?

Like cost, the length of an HIA can vary, but even a long and complicated HIA is likely to reduce the time associated with project approval. When recommendations from a well-­‐executed HIA (e.g., one that involves community stakeholders) are implemented, the project is less likely to get held up in the approval process or by litigation.

What does an HIA produce?

Generally, the completed HIA results in a report that documents the HIA process and findings. This report can then be used to inform policy-makers and engage communities in advocating for decisions in the best interest of community health.

How do I know if an HIA is appropriate?

In order to assess whether an HIA is appropriate, one should consider the potential for the HIA to influence the proposal, the timing of the proposal, and the capacity of stakeholders and community members to participate. Screening, the first step in conducting an HIA, will help you determine if the HIA is appropriate by addressing these considerations.

Is an HIA ever required?

Currently, there are few state and no federal regulations that require an HIA. However, because many laws and regulations do require the consideration and analysis of health effects on proposed projects and plans, an HIA can be a great way to comply with these types of requirements. HIA can also add value to Environmental Impact Assessment.

What is the result of an HIA?

There are two desired outcomes of an HIA. One is to influence policies and projects in a way that improves health and diminishes health disparities. The other is to engage community members and stakeholders so they understand what impacts health and how to advocate for improving health.