Analysis

New Articles Offer Roadmap for Considering Health in Policy Decisions

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Over the past two decades, health impact assessments (HIAs) have been used by decision-makers in the United States in a variety of sectors, including transportation, education, housing, community development, and energy. These HIAs have provided valuable recommendations on ways to minimize the negative consequences and maximize the benefits of proposed projects and policies. With hundreds completed, there is a wealth of information available that people can mine to learn how to apply a health lens to decisions in their own communities. Unfortunately, much of that information is scattered across final reports, websites, or news stories and is not easy to synthesize.

Researchers such as Andrew Dannenberg, a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, are pulling together HIA methods, recommendations, outcomes, and other related information by sector in a series of journal articles. Although each HIA is unique to the group conducting it or the decision being examined, the articles can help practitioners avoid starting from scratch. They may be able to draw conclusions based on similar health impacts, mitigation strategies, and recommendations. And communities, organizations, government agencies, researchers, and other individuals can use them to improve health in the places where they live, work, and play.

As of June, journals had published five reviews by HIA practitioners in these sectors: transportation, urban waterways, criminal justice, food/nutrition/agriculture, and community development. Manuscripts are in progress in four others: housing, education, energy and natural resources, and climate change policies. The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, assisted with some of these and created or supported several sector-specific briefs on housing, community development, and planning.

There is growing recognition that health is affected by many factors outside of a traditional health care setting. The project looks forward to making this information more accessible so that more people can take action to improve health in their communities.

Bethany Rogerson is a manager on the Health Impact Project.

To Learn More:

Community development (34 HIAs)

Rogerson et al., “A simplified framework for incorporating health into community development initiatives,” Health Affairs (March 2014), http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/33/11/1939.full.pdf+html.

Criminal justice (20 HIAs)

Hom et al., “A systematic review of health impact assessments in the criminal justice system,” American Journal of Criminal Justice (2017), https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12103-017-9391-9.

Food/nutrition/agriculture (25 HIAs)

Cowling et al., “Review of health impact assessments informing agriculture, food, and nutrition policies, programs, and projects in the United States,” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (2017), https://www.foodsystemsjournal.org/index.php/fsj/article/view/493.

Housing (40 HIAs)

“A Systematic Review of Health Impact Assessments on Housing Decisions and Guidance for Future Practice,” National Center for Healthy Housing (March 2016), http://www.nchh.org/Portals/0/Contents/Guidance-for-Conducting-HIAs-on-Housing-Decisions.pdf.

Planning (134 HIAs)

Ricklin et al., “The State of Health Impact Assessment in Planning,” American Planning Association (July 2016), https://planning-org-uploaded-media.s3.amazonaws.com/document/State-of-Health-Impact-Assessment-in-Planning.pdf.

Transportation (73 HIAs)

Dannenberg et al., “Use of health impact assessment for transportation planning: importance of transportation agency involvement in the process,” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board (2014), http://trrjournalonline.trb.org/doi/abs/10.3141/2452-09.

Urban waterways (4 HIAs)

Korfmacher et al., “Health impact assessment of urban waterway decisions,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2015), http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/1/300.

In development

Climate change policies (~10 HIAs)

A.L. Dannenberg and B. Rogerson, “Optimizing the health co-benefits of climate change policies using health impact assessment.”

Education (20 HIAs)

L.N. Gase et al., “Review of education-focused health impact assessments conducted in the United States,” Journal of School Health (2017).

Energy and natural resources (30 HIAs)

E. Nkykyer and A.L. Dannenberg, “Use of health impact assessment for projects and policies in the energy and natural resources sector in the United States, 2006-2016.”

Housing (57 HIAs)

Bever et al., “Use of Health Impact Assessments in the Housing Sector in the United States, 2002-2016."

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