Case Study: Collaborative Networks in Oregon

Photo of Columbia River in ORThe collaborative HIA network in Oregon started in 2008 as an informal working group of public and private organizations that were interested in HIA. The original group included Multnomah County Health Department, Kaiser Permanente, Upstream Public Health, Oregon State Public Health Division, Oregon Public Health Institute, and the Coalition for a Livable Future. The purpose of the working group was to learn about HIA. They read articles and engaged in learning calls with established HIA experts. Dr. Rajiv Bhatia from the San Francisco Department of Health gave a lecture on HIA, which encouraged the group to volunteer their time to conduct their first HIA on plans to rebuild the I- 5 Columbia River Crossing highway. From there, the different partners started to look for and secure funding to complete additional HIAs. Upstream Public Health partnered with researchers at Oregon Health and Science University to conduct the Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled HIA in 2009.

The Oregon Health Authority secured funding through the CDC and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to develop capacity to conduct HIAs and to do local, regional, and state HIA trainings. Oregon Health Authority and Upstream Public Health worked with Human Impact Partners and the Northwest Health Foundation to conduct training for local and state government and community leaders. Since then, nearly 15 HIAs have been completed in Oregon.

How does the Oregon HIA Network function?

The working group evolved into a network of organizations that meet quarterly throughout the year. The Oregon HIA Network is a diverse group of over 250 professionals from government agencies, nonprofit and advocacy groups, health care organizations, and private sector companies. The Network meets four times a year to increase communication, encourage collaboration, and build collective capacity for HIA. A small steering committee meets monthly to outline and plan the agenda of the quarterly meetings. The role of the steering committee and the Network at large is to share information and advise ongoing HIA activities. The quarterly meetings are organized into three sections:

  • New HIA Practitioner Orientation: The first half hour of every meeting is devoted to giving an overview of HIA to new practitioners. The short and focused time allotted is intended to bring new organizations up to speed and on the same page as the rest of the Network, so that the overall meeting is relevant and useful to the entire group.
  • Updates on HIA Activity: The majority of time is dedicated to discussing updates on current HIAs and sharing information on funding opportunities from organizations participating in the Network. Occasionally, new ideas for HIAs are discussed. The steering committee provides feedback on potential HIA topics screened by organizations within the Network and ensure that the HIAs are well designed.
  • Learning Session: The remaining half hour is devoted to new learning. The time is spent discussing the different stages of HIA through case studies to support and identify best practices and ensure quality of HIA activity. Example topics include stakeholder engagement or evaluation.

Organizations in the Network have collaborated on several HIAs. In the Columbia River Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) HIA, the Multnomah County Health Department took primary responsibility for reviewing the scientific literature and documenting the findings, while the Oregon Health Department submitted a letter during the public comment period, and Workgroup members provided feedback, process guidance, and health expertise to the analysts. [i] The resulting report was used by HIA Workgroup partners, community members and other public health stakeholders in their own work.[ii]

Other examples of collaborations include:

  • The Oregon Public Health Institute worked with the Department of Transportation on the Lake Oswego HIA. 
  • The Oregon Health Authority is teaming up with Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation to assess the potential health impacts of Metro’s Climate Smart Communities greenhouse gas reduction scenario planning.
  • The Oregon Public Health Institute, National Network of Public Health Institutes/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Northwest Health Foundation, and the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability worked together on the SE 122nd Ave HIA.

How is the Collaborative Network funded?

Different partners provide in-kind contributions, in terms of staff time and facility space, to sustain the activities of the Collaborative Network. Some organizations have received funding from foundations to conduct HIAs, including the Northwest Health Foundation, while others were completed with in-kind contributions from different organizations or a mix of both.

[i] Portland Health Impact Assessment Workgroup. Columbia River Crossing Health Impact Assessment. Portland: Multnomah County Health Department. June 2008.&

[ii] ibid