1 March 2011

USA HIA Update from Human Impact Partners

This is an excerpt of the Human Impact Partners' February update.

Project Updates

Our work to complete HIA projects has definitely picked-up over the past few months. While 2010 was the year of HIA training and technical assistance, it seems that 2011 is the year of HIP completing some exciting and innovative HIAs of our own.

For example, with a generous grant from The California Endowment, HIP has launched into an intensive assessment phase in our School Discipline Health Impact Assessment. To date, HIP has developed a scope for the HIA; is conducting a quantitative analysis of how Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as a discipline policy and practice affects suspensions, expulsions, and graduation rates; and is collecting qualitative data on violence, mental health, and social cohesion outcomes as they relate to various school discipline approaches. Using Oakland, Los Angeles and Salinas as case studies, and working with local partners such as CADRE in Los Angeles, we hope that the HIA will contribute to ongoing campaigns and efforts to address the “school to prison pipeline.”

On the built environment HIA front, HIP continues to make progress on the I-710 Corridor HIA and the Lake Merritt BART Station Area Plan HIA.

In terms of new HIA projects, HIP is excited to be working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Pew Charitable TrustsHealth Impact Project to scope an HIA on the next federal farm bill. At the local level, HIP began working with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles on a rapid HIA of the proposed Long Beach Downtown Community Plan. The HIA will have a specific focus on assessing plan impacts to affordable housing, displacement, and employment opportunities.

HIP’s technical assistance work continues as well, and we have several exciting new partnerships to support. The City of Philadelphia’s “Get Healthy Philly” program (funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) has asked HIP to support the Health and Planning Departments as they conduct HIAs on local district (i.e., area/community) plans. The California Department of Public Health has also asked HIP to mentor three county public health departments in California as they complete rapid HIAs on grocery retail models (Alameda), a redevelopment plan (Fresno), and a regional transportation plan (San Mateo). Last, we are providing TA to the Planning Department in Northampton, Massachusetts as they conduct an HIA on policies to improve access to healthy food.

Institutionalizing Health Impact Assessment

Through all of our work, we are encouraged by the openness of government agencies at local, state and federal levels to HIA concepts. Increasingly, agencies want to incorporate health earlier in their decision-making processes and are looking to HIA to provide a model for accomplishing their public health program goals. Given this interest, HIP recently completed a draft HIA plan that identifies core strategies and activities to institutionalize HIA within various levels of government. The primary strategies promoted in the plan include:
  1. advancing an educational campaign to build support for prescriptive requirements for HIA,
  2. integration of HIA in environmental impact assessment practices, and
  3. working with governmental institutions to voluntarily implement HIA practices (for example, through Health in All Policies approaches).
Through an intensive outreach effort to public health, planning and equity partners across the community-based, advocacy and government spectrum, HIP received feedback on the core strategies in the institutionalization plan and prioritized a set of activities to guide this work over the next one to two years. If you are interested in getting involved in these efforts, please let us know – we would be happy to work with those who are willing! We recognize that the path to institutionalizing HIA, and getting health incorporated in decision-making more broadly, requires partnerships at all levels and we welcome the opportunity to work with individuals and organizations that are committed to advancing this work.

Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA)

As part of HIP’s continuing work with HIA practitioners in North America, we are excited to announce the start of a new HIA practitioners group which grew out of the March 2010 HIA of the Americas meeting co-hosted by HIP. The Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA) will be an association of individuals and organizations providing leadership and promoting excellence in the practice of health impact assessment. The increasing number of HIA practitioners and demand for more formal networking structures and standards for practice drove the development of a formal association. Currently, a provisional steering committee has been formed (with Jonathan as Chair) and subcommittees have begun meeting to develop bylaws, engage potential members (including those outside North America), begin shaping SOPHIA’s activities for members, and plan the next HIA of the America’s conference (October 3 & 4 in Oakland). If you are interested in getting involved in SOPHIA, please contact any one of us and we will be happy to include you as the association is launched.


In 2010, HIP staff presented at over 15 conferences across the country. We think this is a result of the growing excitement in the U.S. about HIA. One highlight was the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting in Denver, where, in addition to participating in other sessions, HIP organized and moderated a panel on HIA. The session was moderated by Lili and included a diverse set of perspectives, including Angelo Logan from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Aaron Wernham from the Health Impact Project, and Marnie from HIP. The session was a big success and as a result we’ve been invited to submit a session proposal for the 2011 APHA annual meeting.

Similarly, at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference this past month, HIP presented at two well attended sessions on HIA: one focused on the use of health based information and health impact assessment to shape local planning processes in San Mateo County; and the other, a half-day session, introduced HIA and examples of its application from around the country.

Resources and Announcements

We wanted to share some exciting new HIA resources and announcements that may be useful to you:
-Casey, Celia, Holly, Jen, Jonathan, Kim, Lili, Marnie, Rachana

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