13 July 2009

HIA Practice Standards Issued by North American Group

A working group established at the first North American Conference on Health Impact Assessment held September 2008 in Oakland, California, has issued a first version of practice guidelines, entitled Practice Standards for Health Impact Assessment (HIA). This was a collective endeavor under the leadership of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

At the Conference (See the story in the IAIA Newsletter from January 2009), there was significant discussion around the issues of quality, standards and values in the conduct of HIA. Participants strongly felt the need for standards or benchmarks to clearly establish HIA quality. Without practice standards, it was felt the term HIA may become ambiguous and the practice misused or vulnerable to criticism.

The document is short—11 pages in total—and attempts to translate the values underlying HIA into specific "standards for practice" for each of the five typical stages of the HIA process. These standards may be used by practitioners as benchmarks for their own HIA practice or to stimulate discussion about HIA content and quality in this emerging field.

Many of the organizations involved in the Conference have signed on as signatories, including the University of California Health Impact Group, Human Impact Partners, Habitat Health Impact Consulting, Environment Resources Management, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, as well as a number of individual participants listed in the document.

The authors and signatories do not claim to have achieved all of these standards in our work to date. We recognize that real-world constraints will result in diversity of HIA practice. Overall, we hope these standards will be viewed as relevant, instructive and motivating for advancing HIA quality rather than rigorous criteria for acceptable or adequate HIA.

We also hope this document may provoke discussion on whether international practice standards for HIA are needed. Comments and suggestions for future versions of the Practice Standards are welcome.

Download the document