16 April 2008

Canadian Senate Mulls HIA Requirement

By Marla Orenstein, Habitat Health Impact Consulting

The Canadian Senate Subcommittee on Population Health has released an interim report on its study of the determinants of health. The purpose of the interim report is to outline the major issues facing the development of population health policy in Canada; to present policy options to improve overall health status and reduce health disparities; and to launch a public debate on the role of the federal government in population health policy.

One of the policy options considered in the report is establishing a federal requirement for the application of HIA to all new public policy proposals. This requirement - if implemented - would bring Canada in line with Sweden and New Zealand, where HIA has become an integral government process.

The report forms the basis for public hearings and consultations that will be held across Canada. Public input is being sought through June 30, 2008. Specific questions relevant to HIA that the subcommittee has raised include: Should the federal government establish a mechanism to allow for or require the application of HIA to all new public policy proposals? Would new legislation be required to do so? Is it realistic to envision HIA as a routine component of all new federal policies and programs? If HIA were to be introduced as a component of federal population health policy, what should be the role and responsibilities of Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and central agencies such as Finance Canada and the Treasury Board?

Do you have strong opinions about these issues? Even if you are not in Canada, I urge you to respond directly to the committee at SOC-AFF-SOC@sen.parl.gc.ca