Washington, D.C. - The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, announced today that The Kresge Foundation will support two health impact assessments (HIAs) to inform decisions in the housing sector.
The Health Impact Project's work to promote the use of HIAs around the country augments The Kresge Foundation's efforts to advance safe and healthy housing that addresses the toxins and unhealthful conditions that harm children and families, particularly those in underserved communities.
An HIA is a study that helps policy makers identify the likely health impacts of a decision in another field, such as building a major roadway, planning a city's growth, or developing agricultural policy. HIAs can assist decision makers in identifying unintended risks, reducing unnecessary costs, finding practical solutions, and leveraging opportunities to improve the wellness of the community.
“The most urgent health problems facing our nation, such as obesity, asthma, diabetes and injuries, are shaped by the places we live and work. This funding will help two more U.S. communities incorporate human health into the policies that shape those places,” said Aaron Wernham, M.D., director of the Health Impact Project. “This collaboration will allow the project to support a broader range of health impact assessments and enable the Kresge Foundation to advance its goal of promoting safe and healthy housing in underserved communities.”
HIAs have been successfully used to inform decisions in the housing sector. An assessment of the Jack London Gateway Senior Housing project (PDF) in Oakland, Calif., determined the development, as planned, posed several health risks. The assessment revealed a risk of asthma and other health problems related to vehicle emissions and noise pollution because of the building's close proximity to two major highways and the Port of Oakland. The HIA offered recommendations to mitigate these risks, such as installing a central air filtration system and redesigning windows facing the freeway to improve air quality and reduce noise levels in the building. The development firm incorporated several changes to the project's design.
The funding from The Kresge Foundation will support two grants, each up to $150,000, which will allow government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations to conduct an HIA. Selected applicants submitted full proposals in September, and the Health Impact Project will make final funding decisions by the end of the year.
This brings to 14, the total number of HIA grants to be awarded for the Health Impact Project's call for proposals. In addition to the two funded by Kresge and the eight originally planned under the call for proposals, the project will support up to two HIAs in California through contributions from The California Endowment, and up to two in Minnesota through funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
The Health Impact Project has made investments of over $1.5 million to date, including funding of demonstration grants that address the effects of a wide range of policy decisions, including a Farm to School bill in Oregon, a pilot project for smart meter electric utility technology in Illinois, and a plan to redevelop an old automobile factory site in Atlanta.