14 May 2010

White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity calls for HIAs of Housing Development

"The White House's inter-agency task force on childhood obesity, developed under the stewardship of First Lady Michelle Obama, today released a 124-page report recommending dozens of policy shifts in health care, community development, and transportation that it estimates can bring down obesity rates among kids by 5 percent over the next 20 years." Streetsblog Capital Hill
The report makes for interesting reading, in particular:
"Before undertaking any major new development or planning initiatives, communities may consider completing an assessment of the potential health impacts of the development. For example, Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) describe a combination of procedures, methods, and tools used to judge a policy or project’s potential public health effects and the distribution of those effects within the population. HIAs can be used to focus decision-makers’ attention on the health consequences of the projects and policies they are considering, particularly how land use decisions may impede or improve physical activity." Page 79

"Recommendation 5.10: Communities should be encouraged to consider the impacts of built environment policies and regulations on human health. Local communities should consider integrating Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) into local decision making processes, and the Federal government should continue to support the development of an HIA approach, tools, and supporting resources that promote best practices." Page 81

"Key Questions for Future Research
• Do health impact assessments change health outcomes in communities where they are used?" Page 85
Personally I doubt if researching whether HIAs change health outcomes is actually possible as the pathways between an HIA and population health outcomes are too distal.

Download the report: