What is a Health Impact Assessment?

A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a systematic process that uses an array of data sources and analytic methods and considers input from stakeholders to determine the potential effects of a proposed policy, plan, program, or project on the health of a population and the distribution of the effects within the population. HIA provides recommendations on monitoring and managing those effects.

A health impact assessment is a process to help achieve effective public policy solutions by doing three things:

  1. Provide information about a plan, project, or policy proposal’s expected impact on the health of affected areas.
  2. Invite stakeholders to express how the expect the proposal to affect health.
  3. Invite stakeholders to make a plan to address any potential consequences to health.

Health impact assessments aim to ensure that:

  • Stakeholders are invited into the decision making process to help collaborate on plans, projects, and policies that are better for everyone.
  • Unintended consequences of the proposal are examined before they are adopted.
  • Proposals are improved by helping stakeholders make plans for how to address any unintended consequences.

A health impact assessment gives decision makers information about the potential health benefits and consequences of a proposal to help maximize benefits and minimize risks.

HIA Steps Description
Screening Screening — Establishes the need for and value of conduc..ng an HIA. Is it feasible? Can an HIA be done within the timeframe of the decision? Are the decision makers open to HIA? Is there public concern regarding the health benefits of the proposal? These are all factors to consider when determining whether to conduct an HIA.

Scoping — Helps identify the affected populations and narrows the scope of health effects to be evaluated to those of greatest potential importance. During this stage, project staff members determine a list of research questions and identify the data and methods to help answer those questions.

Assessment Assessment - Describes the baseline health conditions of the affected populations and characterizes the expected health effects of the proposal, as well as alterna..ves under consideration.
Recommendations Recommendations — Proposes alternatives that mitigate any anticipated negative consequences and maximize the benefits. It is important to ensure that these recommendations are practical and match the political realities of the situation.
Reporting Reporting — Includes the actual formal HIA report and the plan for communicating findings to the decision maker and the public.
Monitoring and Evaluation Monitoring and evaluation — Tracks the results of the HIA (whether or not the recommendations were adopted) and monitors for predicted health outcomes. Evaluation looks at the process of the HIA.

This project is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Health Impact Project, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or the Pew Charitable Trusts.  The Health Impact Project nor any of their components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).