5 March 2015

Trading away Health: Reflections on an HIA of a trade agreement”

Guest post by Fiona Haigh:
The HIA team at CHETRE has been working with a group of Australian academics and non-government organisations to carry out a health impact assessment (HIA) on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations. The report has attracted a lot of attention and in general has been a different experience from the typical HIAs that we are involved in. We thought it would be interesting to share with the HIA community a few reflections on our experience.
We weren’t commissioned to do this HIA- a small group of us thought it would be a good and interesting thing to do and we somehow managed with some support from CHETRE and the Public Health Association of Australia keep it going. The support from CHETRE enabled us to bring in Katie Hirono to do a lot of the work on it and we were supported by a group of experts and advocacy groups who contributed their expertise and advice. There were some technical challenges to do with trying to do an HIA on something that is being kept secret. We had to base our assessment on leaked documents on wikileaks and advice from academics working in the area and policy experts. We also faced the challenge of trying to predict likely future public health policies that could be impacted on by the trade agreement (since it won’t affect current policies). We approached this by working with policy experts to identify likely future public health policies in our scoped areas of focus that would be impacted on by the TPP.
We also walked the talk of taking a participatory approach, which meant sharing power with the technical advisory group and the advocacy groups that we worked with throughout the process. We feel that this has worked really well- it meant that we focused on issues they identified as important and we have produced a report that they have been able to immediately use for their advocacy. Without them I’m pretty sure this report would not be having the impact it has had so far. The report is being talked about on the front pages of major newspapers, there have been multiple radio interviews, a social media campaign led by CHOICE (the main consumer advocacy group in Australia), lots of tweets and perhaps most satisfying of all we’ve been labeled scaremongers in a press release from the minister for trade and investment - we must be doing something right!