31 August 2010

HIA update from Human Impact Partners in San Francisco

Exciting updates about 3 projects

We started working on a Health Impact Assessment of the proposed Interstate-710 expansion as sub-contractors to ICF International and with funding from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

The I-710 is a vital transportation artery that links the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to the rest of Southern California and beyond. The expansion of this stretch of freeway, passing through 15 cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, is proposed for the purposes of: improving air quality and public health; improving traffic safety; addressing design deficiencies; addressing projected traffic volumes; and addressing projected growth in population, employment, and economic activities related to goods movement. Community groups and government agencies have expressed concerns about the potential health impacts of the expansion and, as a result, Metro decided to conduct this HIA.

Separately, we’ve been working with the Environmental Protection Agency on developing a scope for HIAs on capacity expansion projects at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The scope is now publicly available and HIP and the EPA are taking comments on it. The EPA is hosting a call in early September to discuss the scope and potential next steps with stakeholders, with the goal of encouraging HIAs on future port plans and projects.

We’re also starting a HIA on the Lake Merritt BART Station Specific Plan in Oakland. Public Health Law and Policy received a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to work with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Asian Health Services, Transform and us on this project, which focuses on transit-oriented development (TOD) near this under-utilized BART station. The intent of the grant is to create a toolkit for incorporating health in transportation planning, with HIA as the main tool by which to do so.

Technical Assistance Projects

We are currently providing training and technical assistance to 15 groups around the country. Nine of these projects are funded by the Health Impact Project (a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts). While not all nine are publicly announced yet, five are:
  • CA Department of Public Health on a HIA of a proposed state cap and trade policy
  • The faith-based organization, ISAIAH, on a HIA of a proposed light rail zoning plan in St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Kohala Center in Hawaii on a HIA of a proposed agricultural plan
  • The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy on a HIA of proposed state budget policies
  • Texas Southern University on a HIA of proposed light rail transit-oriented development plans in Houston
Another four training and technical assistance projects, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, are a collaboration with the Place Matters Initiative, whose place-based teams are designing and implementing strategies to address the social determinants of health. We are working with teams focused in Albuquerque, Detroit, Oakland and New Orleans. While we are currently helping each team choose a topic for their HIA, it looks like they will potentially be working on a range of topics from pay equity to education policy to land use.

In addition to these projects, we continue to support state health departments in California, Oregon, and Wisconsin as they work to build HIA capacity at the state and local levels.

As you can see from the amazing range of HIA topics, locations, and types of organizations involved, HIA is in a stage of very rapid expansion.

New Website

Last, but not least, we’re excited to officially launch our new website – www.humanimpact.org. We restructured the website for clarity and to provide additional resources to the HIA community. We’ve tried to make sure that everything previously available (e.g., our searchable EvidenceBase that reviews the evidence for links between land use and health outcomes - http://www.humanimpact.org/evidencebase) is still available and we’ve tried to include new resources (e.g., a document library that contains our resources for conducting Health Impact Assessment (HIA) - http://www.humanimpact.org/doc-lib). If you can’t find something you’re looking for, please let us know – our goal is to make all our work and tools available to anyone interested.

To do all this, we’ve expanded our team. Casey Tsui recently came on board as a Research Associate. We’ve also had a fantastic intern, Lisa Chen, working with us.

As always, thanks for all your support and continued collaboration!

The Human Impact Partners Team
(Casey, Celia, Jen, Jonathan, Kim, Lili, and Marnie)

30 August 2010

Clarification: Health Impact Assessment in Thailand

A number of Thai colleagues contacted me following my earlier post about the apparent relaxing of Thailand's HIA regulations. They reminded me that whilst it's correct that the range of industries that are required to do HIAs under Thailand's health and environmental legislation have been reduced it's only part of the picture.

Local communities still retain the right, guaranteed under the Thai constitution, to request that a court and an expert committee examine whether an HIA is required, irrespective of other regulations. This has already occurred in the Mab Ta Phut case, with a court already ruling that 76 projects in the region have to undertake HIAs.

24 August 2010

Thailand's Health Impact Assessment Requirements Reduced, Narrowed

The Nation is reporting that the number of industries that are required to do HIA's under Thailand's far-reaching HIA regulations has been severely circumscribed. Whilst clarify the regulations this move represents a significant backwards step, with many large-scale, potentially harmful projects no longer subjected to any review of the potential health impacts of their projects.

For example a gas processing plant planned by the state-owned PTT company for the Mab Ta Phut Industrial Area in Thailand will no longer require an HIA, despite plans for it to produce up to 100,000 tonnes of liquified petroleum gas per month. Many other projects with significant health risks are also no longer required to conduct HIAs (see below).

Update to this story here

The major projects in the following industries that are still required to conduct stand-alone HIAs:
  1. Offshore or coastal landfill of areas larger than 300 rai
  2. All types and sizes of mine operations
  3. Industrial estate and annexed or extended areas
  4. Headstream or middlestream petrochemical productions, of all sizes, or extended size of at least 35 per cent of output
  5. Steel or ore mills, with minimum daily output of 5,000 tonnes
  6. Production, modification or disposal of radioactive material in operations of hospital, veterinarian clinics, or research
  7. Disposal facilities or crematoriums of waste harmful to human health
  8. Airports with runways of 3,000 metres' minimum length
  9. Piers and ports, except small-scale used by locals
  10. Dams or reservoirs with minimum capacity of 100-million cubic metres and water surfaces of 15 kms
  11. Power plants, except those fuelled by natural gas or combined cycle power plants that increase output to 3,000 megawatts

Projects in these industries are no longer required to conduct HIAs:
  1. Irrigation projects
  2. Natural saline suction projects
Projects in these industries don't have to do HIAs but are required to conduct EIAs:
  1. Cremation of biologically-infected waste
  2. Water transfer operations over major rivers and international operations
  3. Watergate operations
Projects in these industries are suggested to consider conducting an EIA:
  1. General operations located near World Heritage or historical sites, wildlife reserves
  2. Construction or renovation of permanent installations outside seawalls or anti-erosion dykes, in areas reserved for environmental protection or tourism
Photos of Mab Ta Phut, the industrial estate in question:

An Asia Pacific Health Impact Forum: An idea whose time has come?

The use of health impact assessment (HIA) has expanded rapidly throughout the Asia Pacific, with several hundred people now having some level of experience with conducting HIAs. These people are scattered however, with limited ability to share experiences, ask questions or seek help.

I'd like to propose a new grouping to help meet these needs: an Asia Pacific Health Impact Forum.

I envisage this forum as a mechanism for information sharing and exchange between individual HIA practitioners (organisations would not necessarily be members). Some of its functions may include promoting the use of HIA across the Asia Pacific region, supporting HIA events, and acting as a mechanism for contacting HIA practitioners.

The forum is not intended to be an association, nor is it intended to replace existing regional initiatives such as WPRO's Thematic Working Group on HIA. In many ways it is about providing a framework for existing ad-hoc activites such as the Asia Pacific HIA HIA listserv and determining venues for Asia Pacific HIA conferences.

I'd like this post to provide a starting point for discussion. What do you think? Please let me know in the comments. Specifically:
  • What should be the aims of the forum?
  • Who should be members of the forum?
  • Which countries should be included in the forum?
  • What should the forum’s core activities be?
  • Should there be a forum Chair? How should they be determined?
  • Should the forum be affiliated with the International Association for Impact Assessment?
  • Do we even need a forum?

12 August 2010

Health impacts of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: preliminary findings

In June this year, the US Institute of Medicine convened a workshop in New Orleans that brought together 350 federal, state and local government officials, expert scientists, academic leaders, policy experts, health care providers, public health advocates, community representatives, residents and others to examine options for measuring the Gulf oil spill's potential health effects on different communities.

There were seven main themes that emerged from the workshop:
  • Complexity
    Assessing the effects on human health of oil spills and response activities is complex.
  • Multiple dimensions
    Human health is multidimensional and includes physical, psychological, and socioeconomic dimensions.
  • Uncertainty
    Information about the specific hazards related to the Gulf oil spill and the range of potential acute and long-term effects of oil spills on human health is incomplete and leads to uncertainty.
  • Immediacy
    Understanding the current state of knowledge can guide immediate actions to mitigate known risks and to fill existing knowledge gaps.
  • Community engagement
    Community involvement and collaboration are essential when designing surveillance systems, related research activities, and effective risk communication strategies.
  • Coordination
    Coordination can strengthen existing and developing surveillance and monitoring systems.
  • Commitment
    Long-term surveillance and related research activities are critical to identifying acute, chronic, and long-term health effects of oil spills.

Check out the full workshop findings online at the National Academies photo link above, download  a PDF of the summary, or buy a hard copy or PDF of the whole workshop.

11 August 2010

Wellesley Institute: some useful links on Health Equity Impact Assessment

Wellesley Institute HIA page

The Wellesley Institute in Canada has some interesting stuff on Health Equity Impact Assessment.

I'm not sure about the use of the term Health Equity Impact Assessment - I much prefer plain old Health Impact Assessment - but I can't argue with the interesting work that they are doing both HIA and Non-HIA related.

The items that caught my eye were:
  • Building Equity Into Health Impact Assessment
    The American-based Prevention Institute made a presentation to recent National Research Council deliberations on HIA. They argued that HIA aligns well with primary prevention or upstream action on the roots of ill health and health disparities, and with healthy community planning approaches to addressing the underlying determinants of health…
  • Using Health Equity Impact Assessment Creatively: Local Mental Health Strategy
    To drive health equity into practice we need to be able to identify the specific needs of health disadvantaged populations, key access barriers, and gaps in available services for these communities. Health Equity Impact Assessment is an effective planning tool that is increasingly being used within LHINs and in many other jurisdictions to build equity into service provision. I recently presented a workshop to the Mental Health and Addictions Decision Support Working Group of the Toronto Central LHIN on how HEIA could be applied to developing quality improvement plans and indicators…
  • Implementing Health Equity Impact Assessment
    I recently spoke to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group of the Central LHIN on the Health Equity Impact Assessment pilot project undertaken by The Wellesley Institute, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Toronto Central LHIN. Central has done some tremendous work integrating equity into their new strategic plan (Integrated Health Service Plan-2) and ongoing service planning...
  • Engaging the Community in HIA
    The Wellesley Institute promotes community engagement in various areas, as it is essential for effective reform of public policy. It is crucial that community engagement reflect the diversity of the population, including marginalized groups. HIA could benefit enormously from a community engagement component since the purpose of HIA is to consider how policies and programs impact the health of the community...
  • Developing HEIA in Ontario
    The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Toronto Central LHIN developed a Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) tool designed to assist LHINs and health service providers in service planning...

5 August 2010

Assessment of Human Health and Wellbeing in Project Environmental Assessment: Free book chapter

Patrick Harris and I wrote a chapter on human health in EIA for an Indian book on environmental clearance. The chapter can be downloaded for free or you can order a copy of the book from the publishers.

The citation for the chapter is:

Harris P, Harris-Roxas BF. Assessment of Human Health and Wellbeing in Project Environmental Assessment. In: Bhattacharya J (ed). Project Environmental Clearance: Engineering and management aspects, Wide Educational: Kolkata, India, p 355-379, 2010. Download