Forum Session

Health Impact Assessments: What, Why, How, Who, Where?
December 3, 2010

Manager

Michele J. Orza, ScD

Summary

Increasingly, a wide range of people from economists to epidemiologists are taking a broad-based, comprehensive approach to improving the public’s health and working on many fronts simultaneously.  An important means for implementing this approach, often characterized as "health in all policies," is the health impact assessment (HIA). These assessments are intended to bring a health focus to policies, programs, and projects in other sectors, such as agriculture, energy, and transportation, where the effects of the proposed action on health might not be adequately considered—or considered at all.  HIAs are a vehicle for supporting policymaking intended to advance the public's health by making explicit the health effects of the various alternatives under consideration.

This Forum session provided an introduction to health impact assessments, examined several examples and their effect on policy and health outcomes, and discussed future opportunities and challenges for this burgeoning health policy practice.

Speakers

Aaron Wernham, MD, Director, The Health Impact Project, The Pew Health Group, The Pew Charitable Trusts; Catherine L. Ross, PhD, Director, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, Harry West Professor, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Tech College of Architecture; Suzanne K. Condon, MSM, Associate Commissioner for Health, Director, Bureau of Environmental Health, Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Slides from the presentations by Dr. Wernham, Dr. Ross, and Ms. Condon are available for download.

Related Materials

The Health Impact Project brief "Health Impact Assessment: Bringing Public Health Data to Decision Making" was distributed at the session.

AcademyHealth also provides a brief, "Research Informing Policy: The Potential of Health Impact Assessments."

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's web page on Health Impact Assessment provides basic background and links to a variety of resources.

See also other Forum products, including "High Hopes: Public Health Approaches to Reducing the Need for Health Care" (Background Paper No. 78, September 27, 2010); "Unusual Suspects: Focusing on Nonmedical Determinants to Improve the Nation's Health" (Forum Session, November 5, 2010); "Getting Real: Data Sources, the Evidence Base, and Strategies for Improving the Health of Communities" (Forum Session, September 24, 2010); "Resilience and Renaissance: Efforts to Rebuild a Healthier New Orleans" (Site Visit, May 26-28, 2009); and "Focus on Reform: Public Health Provisions" (June 25, 2010).

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