30 July 2008

What's the impact on health? Experts explore issues in using health impact assessments to find out

A short summary of the 2004 workshop in the US funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has just been published and it outlines the key recommendations from the workshop.

Key recommendations of the workshop included:
  • Conduct pilot tests of existing health impact assessment tools, ranging from simple checklists to complex collaborative processes. Pilot tests should be designed to provide information on:
    • The usefulness of health impact assessment methods in US settings.
    • The availability of needed health impact data.
    • The acceptability of the process to local decision-makers.
  • Develop a database of health impacts of common projects and policies. Such a searchable database should contain:
    • An inventory of tools for conducting health impact assessments.
    • Guidelines for choosing tools used in health impact assessments.
    • Systematic reviews of health impacts for a range of policies and projects.
    • Links to completed health impact assessments on numerous topics.
    • Lists of experts in the field of health impact assessment.
  • Develop resources for the use of health impact assessment, which may vary according to scope of the project, depth of analysis, time available and processes employed.
  • Build workforce capacity to conduct health impact assessments, including:
    • Health impact assessment professionals, whose training curriculum should include skills to:
      • Understand the health impact assessment process.
      • Identify stakeholders.
      • Analyze policies.
      • Identify and quantify health impacts.
      • Communicate results.
      • Understand land use and transportation planning.
    • Planners and decision-makers, who would be more likely to request and use health impact assessment processes if trained to understand their value. Health impact assessment training for this group should be interdisciplinary, problem-based and not overly technical.
  • Evaluate health impact assessments. Such assessment have the potential to:
    • Advance the field.
    • Demonstrate value.
    • Document influence on decisions.
    • Improve quality.
    • Facilitate training.
    • Enhance institutional relationships.
    • Raise awareness of health impacts for decision-makers.
    • Examine adherence of processes to underlying values.

    Three types of health impact assessment evaluations would apply, depending on the needs:
    • Process evaluations examining how the health impact assessment was planned and implemented.
    • Impact evaluations assessing the effect of the health impact assessment on the decision-making process.
    • Outcome evaluations comparing the health outcomes after implementation with those predicted by the health impact assessment.

External link: http://www.rwjf.org/pr/product.jsp?catid=17&id=32231