Health Impact Project

Health Impact Assessment

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case studies

Case Study: East Bay Greenway
An HIA of a proposed trail addressed residents’ safety concerns and helped the developer obtain funding to assist with the permit process.

An HIA by Human Impact Partners looked at plans to build a walking/biking trail under elevated transit tracks. The intended area, part of an underserved community, was both dangerous and uninviting. The proposed East Bay Greenway project was designed to increase open green space, encourage residents to get out and move, and help to combat rising diabetes and obesity rates.  The HIA was used to build support within the community and raise funds for the project.  Identifying health concerns and benefits, the assessment looked at the impact of 15 indicators including physical activity, access to open space, motor vehicle use, and safety. The HIA offered recommendations that planners could use to maximize the health benefits. The assessment also offered specific suggestions to connect the project to existing paths to make it easier for residents to use. To address safety concerns, the HIA suggested steps to ensure proper lighting. The local community was able to steer the scope of the report, but their involvement also gave the HIA more weight with decision-makers. The HIA was incorporated into the final project plan submitted for permitting and was instrumental in gaining funding to complete a required environmental impact assessment. Read More »

Case Study: General Plan, Humboldt County, CA
An HIA evaluates how 35 indicators of community health would be affected by three alternative growth scenarios.
The Humboldt County Health Department, Humboldt Partnership for Active Living, and Human Impact Partners teamed up to conduct an HIA to inform updates being proposed to the county’s General Plan.  Identifying 35 indicators of community health, including vehicle miles traveled and the proportion of households within a half mile of an elementary school, the HIA evaluated the impact of each based on three growth scenarios.  It showed that focused growth was likely to result in fewer miles driven, which could lead to fewer injuries from traffic and more physical activity, improving health and decreasing pollution.  The planning department used the HIA recommendations to develop proposals for the final General Plan. Read More »

Case Study: Healthy Families Act: Paid Sick Days
This HIA helped expand the discourse on paid sick days to include important public health implications.
A 2009 HIA performed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Human Impact Partners predicted that proposed federal legislation requiring seven sick days a year would reduce the spread of illness and save lives.  The HIA noted that one-third of U.S. flu cases are transmitted at work or school.  By providing paid leave, the HIA concluded, workers would be more likely to stay home when sick, reducing the likelihood of a pandemic.  The HIA noted that without paid sick leave and other preventative measures a serious flu outbreak could kill more than two million people in the United States.  Before this HIA, the issue was viewed solely as a labor and workers’ rights policy, and the assessment revealed important public health implications. Read More »

Case Study: Agriculture Development Plan, Hawai‘i County, HI
HIAs can help capitalize on often unrecognized opportunities to improve health in government policies and plans.

The Kohala Center conducted an HIA to inform the Hawai‘i County Agricultural Development Plan, which would serve as a guide for county government, local advocacy groups, and local businesses to revitalize agriculture as a basis for economic development. The Kohala Center consulted on development of the plan and used the HIA to strengthen its potential benefits for health. Kohala Center staff met with the County of Hawai‘i Planning Department during the strategy development period and made additional specific suggestions during the draft review period. All of the important issues and most of the HIA recommendations were included in the final state strategy documents with dollar figures attached to some of the recommended initiatives. Read More »

Case Study: BeltLine, Atlanta
When decision-makers understand the health implications of a project, they can advance more effective policies that improve health and help project dollars go further.

One of the nation’s first HIAs, the BeltLine project, provided new information on how the proposed BeltLine, a comprehensive transportation and economic development project, might affect neighboring communities as well as practical recommendations for enhancements to maximize the health benefits.  This HIA was used as a reference by community members and decision-makers who determined that the project would have a largely favorable impact on community health, from improved availability of green spaces and better access to healthy foods to greater opportunities for physical activity and more transportation options.  Developers and planners were able to strategically place parks, residential areas, schools, transit routes, and grocery stores to increase residents’ health and decrease potential health problems. Read More »

Case study: Biomass Energy Facility, Placer County, CA
HIAs can address community and decision-makers’ concerns, allowing a project to move forward.
The Sequoia Foundation, a nonprofit in La Jolla, CA, dedicated to public health research, conducted an HIA to inform decisions surrounding a proposed biomass energy facility in Placer County, CA. The assessment addressed community concerns about air pollution and showed that the facility would likely benefit community health through improvements in air quality and reductions in risks from wildfires.

Jennifer Montgomery, supervisor for Placer County’s 5th district and chair of the board, whose district includes the site of the proposed facility, applauded the HIA for its independent analysis and its usefulness, not only for local stakeholders, but for communities across the country that are making similar decisions about alternative energy technologies. Read More »

Case Study: Collaborative Networks, Oregon

A diverse group of over 250 professionals from government agencies, nonprofits, advocacy groups, health care organizations, and private sector companies meet four times a year to increase communication, encourage collaboration, and build capacity for HIA.

More than 15 HIAs have been completed in Oregon since the collaborative HIA network began in 2008.  The network shares information and advises ongoing HIA activities.  Quarterly meetings of the group are split into three categories: new HIA practitioner orientation, updates on HIA activity, and a learning session. Read More »

Case study: Healthy T for a Healthy Region: Public Transportation in Boston
Quantitative HIAs can provide a valuable lens to help policymakers weigh challenging budget decisions
When Boston’s public transportation system faced a deficit, an HIA found that proposals to reduce costs could result in additional health expenditures far exceeding the shortfall the cuts were intended to fill. As a result, decision-makers were able to choose a third option to mitigate potential health and fiscal risks. Read More »

Case Study: Low Income Energy Assistance Program, Massachusetts
Rising cost of heat puts low-income families at risk for illness and injuries

Case Study: Natural Resource Development, Alaska
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services participates as a member of the state’s multiagency large project permit team. The program conducts HIAs for all large natural resource development projects in the state.

Through a collaboration of federal agencies leading environmental impact statements, or EISs, and tribes, three HIAs were conducted on oil and gas leasing decisions in Alaska.  In the course of these pilot efforts, a widening circle of state, federal, and tribal agencies became engaged in the HIA process.  In 2010 the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services established an program to maintain and update an HIA toolkit, respond to public feedback, and lead ongoing efforts to develop the state’s capacity for conducting HIAs.  The program now conducts HIAs for all large natural resource development projects in the state.  HIAs are now built into the work plan for EIS, and in some cases HIAs are conducted even when an EIS is not required. Read More »

Case Study: Oil Development, North Slope of Alaska
Collaboration on this HIA contributed to a widely accepted compromise leasing plan.

Looking at the effects of further expansion of oil and gas development on the health and welfare of residents, this HIA was the first to be formally undertaken within the legal framework of the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act. The HIA drew connections between the predicted effects on fish and wildlife in the region and the potential consequences for diet and health. The Inupiat, who make up a majority of the local population, are heavily dependent on fishing and wildlife, which are central to their diet and way of life. Recognizing the social change that could result from an increase in roadways and an influx of nonlocal residents, the assessment also noted the benefits that could come with new oil and gas revenue such as enhanced services for police, fire, emergency, and public health, along with infrastructure improvements such as water and sanitation programs. The HIA also led to a series of new requirements for air quality analyses, monitoring of oil-related contaminants in foods, and education of workers about drugs and sexually transmitted disease. Read More »

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