The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, together with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, conducted an HIA to inform state decisions on funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) Program, an initiative that incubates and supports small businesses in underserved Massachusetts communities. The HIA explored links between the income-generating effects of supporting small businesses and mental health, overall health, and the ability of small business employees to afford housing, food, and medications.
The HIA found that reducing or eliminating state funding for SBTA would negatively affect the health of the communities it serves. It recommended keeping the current level of funding or raising it to amplify the program's health benefits. The report also recommended that SBTA technical assistance providers receive training on how to address small business owners' and employees' physical and mental wellness, and how to identify and address workplace safety concerns in participating businesses.
The HIA was part of a program grant from the Health Impact Project. As part of the larger program grant, the center worked to standardize the use of HIA by building demand and basic capacity among community-based organizations, developing assessment methodologies for several sectors and health outcomes, creating a full Harvard University course on HIA, and offering in-depth training for students and community-based organizations in classroom, practice, and online forums. Through the course, students worked with the HIA team to complete smaller, rapid assessments of policies related to criminal justice reform and immigration. These coursework projects will serve as the foundation for educating students and partners. Under the program grant, the team collaborated with community health workers to increase community knowledge and understanding of Health in All Policies approaches, including HIA. This effort will help build capacity among health workers and the populations they serve to demand and engage with HIAs.