18 November 2011

News from Human Impact Partners

News from Human Impact Partners in the US. As always they've been doing impressive work.


The HIA we conducted on the I-710 Corridor Project in Los Angeles was sent to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) this week by the Gateway Cities Council of Governments.  Caltrans is now considering whether/how to include the HIA in the draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement that is due in the spring of 2012 and the HIA will be made public after that.  This has been a long and difficult project for many reasons and we’ll be writing a case study to share the valuable lessons we’ve learned including, for example, that conducting an HIA within the Environmental Impact Assessment process creates many limitations, and these limitations must be considered when deciding to do so.  More later…
In the next few weeks, we’ll also be finishing HIAs on:
The Lake Merritt BART Specific Plan in Oakland on which we’ve been working with Public Health Law and Policy, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Asian Health Services, TransForm, and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. The City of Oakland has eagerly engaged in the process and is now considering our findings and recommendations.
A series of federal housing proposals – including the Rental Housing Revitalization Act, Rental Assistance Demonstration project, and Senate Bill 1596 – on which we’ve been working with Advancement Project and National People’s Action (NPA).  To provide local perspectives, they have engaged Community Voices Heard (CVH) and Good Old Lower East Sides (GOLES) in New York, Communities United for Action (CUFA) in Cincinnati, People Organized for West Side Renewal (POWER) in LA, and Causa Justa:Just Cause in Oakland. These bills would collectively re-shape the management and ownership structures of public housing such that private and non-profit companies would be allowed to manage America’s public housing stock.
School discipline policies in LA, Oakland, and Salinas, California, in which we’ve been looking at zero tolerance policies as well as alternatives being considered and/or implemented, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Restorative Justice (RJ).  The LA work will be completed first and our partners at CADRE are already using our findings to encourage the LA Unified School District to fully implement PBIS.
As part of our more general work to encourage the consideration of health in decision-making, we completed work with a collaborative of partners around the state to develop a set of health and equity metrics to be incorporated into Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) processes in California. Senate Bill 375 (2008) requires that Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) prepare a Sustainable Communities Strategy as a new element of their RTPs. MPOs typically select a set of metrics to use as criteria for judging potential scenarios under consideration, and it is our hope that using these health- and equity-based metrics to judge future scenarios will lead to the development and selection of RTPs with better health and equity outcomes. The final metrics and a one page summary  are now available. We’ve now started work with local advocates in LA, Fresno, and Sacramento to disseminate the metrics (including methods for measuring them and health evidence that supports them) to MPOs. We are starting to see some positive results – for example, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) released final metrics that reflect many of the collaborative’s suggestions.

We’ve also recently finished some smaller research projects on the health impacts of paid family leave policies in California and of a paid sick days ballot measure in Denver.

One new project starting up that we’re particularly excited about is an HIA we’re conducting with WISDOM in Wisconsin. As part of a broader campaign to advance alternatives to incarceration, the HIA will assess the moving of funds from incarcerating people in state prisons to county-based alternatives such as drug and mental health courts. Wisconsin has had very high rates of African Americans incarcerated, and by highlighting the health impacts of incarceration on the incarcerated, their families, and their communities, the potential to address disparities and equity through the project is great. WISDOM recently received a grant for this campaign from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is funding HIP to conduct the HIA component.


HIP helped organize and host the 3rd HIA of the Americas workshop that took place in Oakland in October, and brought together over 80 HIA practitioners from the US, Canada, and, for the first time, Brazil. The workshop had a variety of sessions on HIA, including: consideration of equity, communicating and framing, evaluation, quality of evidence, stakeholder engagement, and discussions of the previously released HIA Practice Standards. We all learned a lot from the experiences of others in the field and it was fabulous to spend time with so many friends and colleagues.
One exciting part of the workshop was the launch of the Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA), which we have also been helping to organize over the last year.  SOPHIA is an association of individuals and organizations providing leadership and promoting excellence in the practice of health impact assessment. We hope that it will be a leading network of health impact assessment practitioners. By promoting and practicing a thorough and systematic consideration of health in decision making, SOPHIA members will work towards achieving better health for all.  More information about the new association and information about joining are available at www.hiasociety.org.


In the past few months, we’ve facilitated HIA trainings for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Columbia University, The City of Philadelphia, Michigan Department of Community Health, Cuyahoga County (OH) Board of Health, and Alameda County Public Health Department. Over the last 3 years, we’ve led over 25 trainings, many of which have resulted in the start of successful HIAs.
We’ve also been spreading the word about HIAs through shorter trainings and talks at conferences. Recently, we helped facilitate trainings at the American Public Health Association (APHA) national conference, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) national meeting, and at a national YMCA meeting.  We also moderated a session on HIA at APHA, gave a talk at the California Conference of Local Health Officers (CCLHO) meeting, participated in an HIA panel on tools and strategies to improve equity in PolicyLink’s national Equity Summit, and will be presenting at a roundtable for the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council.


Recently, a number of national efforts have highlighted HIA as a useful and necessary tool in preventing disease.  In June, the  National Prevention Strategy (which was developed by the National Prevention Council, formed by the Affordable Care Act, that included 17 federal agencies and was chaired by the Surgeon General) recommended HIA as a way to “Integrate health criteria into decision making, where appropriate, across multiple sectors” – one of eight strategies it focused on. 
And last month, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science released a book called “Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment.  The recommendations in the book align closely with how HIP conducts HIA and our work was highlighted in the book.
HIP’s co-founder and Board member, Rajiv Bhatia, one of the pioneering practitioners of HIA in the United States, developed a “Guide to the Practice of Health Impact Assessment” in an effort to continue the support for high quality HIA practice.  The Guide describes the key tasks and activities for HIA as well as the issues and challenges that arise in the course of practice. It includes illustrative examples from practice, as well as suggestions for stakeholder participation and the integration of health analysis in the environmental impact assessment process.


The Inaugural National Health Impact Assessment Meeting will be held April 3-4, 2012 in Washington D.C. in response to the burgeoning national interest in HIA. Please visit  http://www.regonline.com/NationalHIAMeeting2012 for more information.

As you can see, it has been a busy time for us and for other HIA practitioners. It is clear that this way of thinking about equity, health, and public policy resonates with many people and we are not expecting the momentum the field has gained to slow.  Though we wouldn’t mind if it slowed a little over the upcoming holidays.