Local Health Departments Serve as HIA Ambassadors

New materials support HIA practice

Local Health Departments Serve as HIA Ambassadors
Local health departments are HIA ambassadors

© Jay Newman/Getty Images

Because of their understanding of community health, research capabilities, and access to health data, local health departments are a natural fit for conducting health impact assessments (HIAs). HIAs bring together scientific data, health expertise, and public input to identify the potential—and often overlooked—health effects of proposed new laws, regulations, projects, and programs. In order to make this practice routine as they grapple with diminishing funding and staff, they need resources and practical strategies. In March of 2015, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Health Impact Project funded the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to advance use of HIA among local health departments by creating a Community of Practice (CoP). The idea was to build an online network of HIA-related materials and provide opportunities for networking, peer support, and technical assistance.

NACCHO launched the CoP and created five working groups that have developed the following materials:

  • The Value of HIA to Local Health Departments explains why HIA is a valuable tool to improve community health, meet standards for public health accreditation, and develop cross-sector partnerships.
  • The Value of HIA to Community Partners targets and frames the value of HIA to partners from different sectors.
  • The Data Indicators Collection Tool serves as a guide for selecting metrics for HIA and can be downloaded on NACCHO’s HIA webpage.
  • The HIA Budgeting Tool helps practitioners predict the costs associated with conducting an HIA. The tool consists of a set of instructions and several worksheets for aggregating information into a summary budget and can be downloaded on NACCHO’s HIA webpage.
  • The Crosswalk Between Public Health Accreditation and Health Impact Assessment describes how local health departments can use HIA documentation materials as an asset to reach accreditation status.
  • The Collection of Health Impact Assessment Predictive Modeling Tools gives HIA practitioners, other local health agencies, and professionals in other sectors (such as housing) quantitative models that can be applied to HIA and can be downloaded on NACCHO’s HIA webpage.

With funding from the de Beaumont Foundation, the Health Impact Project also supported HIA training by Human Impact Partners for representatives from 15 local health departments in December 2015. Participants expressed interest in conducting HIAs but cited several hurdles. They needed assistance with engaging their communities, predicting the costs, identifying the data to use, and, in some cases, funding. The project responded by offering tailored training and technical assistance for participants. This has included workshops for Chicago’s health department and some of its partners and ongoing technical assistance for New York City’s health department. The project also plans to support Detroit’s health department.

The Health Impact Project is evaluating the results of this effort to better understand how to support making HIA a routine practice among these agencies. Stay tuned for the results!

For more information about the CoP, contact NACCHO’s Healthy Community Design Team.

Rebecca Morley directs the Health Impact Project.