11 February 2012

New Spanish HIA Portal

From Carlos Artundo, CEO of the Andalusian School of Public Health:

I’m pleased to inform you that the new HIA portal in Spanish, the CREIS, Centro de Recursos de Evaluación de Impacto en Salud is already on line at http://www.creis.es

The CREIS provides key information and resources in Spanish, as well as links to relevant documents, tools, evidence and other helpful resources available in other specialised websites and HIA portals. The site was launched last December 2011. It is an ongoing project and its full functionality will evolve throughout this year accordingly to new developments and emerging needs.

It has been created and it is maintained by the Andalusian School of Public Health. Nonetheless, we’re planning to build on partnerships and collaboration with other public health institutions at the regional/national level, as well as with the private sector, as part of a wider strategy to promote HIA development and practice across Spain. The idea is to make it also a useful resource in other Spanish speaking countries interested in HIA.

Please feel free to disseminate this information among your networks. And of course, any comment/suggestion/feedback, are very welcome.

10 February 2012

Shale gas: an updated assessment of environmental and climate change impacts

Researchers at Tyndall Manchester, in partnership with The Co-operative, have updated their assessment of the environmental impact of shale gas in light of new developments in the UK. The report, released in November 2011, updates their January 2011 work. It finds that in the absence of a stringent global emissions cap, large-scale extraction of shale gas cannot be reconciled with the commitments enshrined in the latest international climate change agreement, the Copenhagen Accord (2009).
The report has also an interesting chapter on human health and one of the main findings of this work is that there is a paucity of information on which to base a quantified assessment of environmental and human health risk.
The report provides a list of key risks and impacts of shale gas and shale gas processes and development. Those can be divided as follows:
 contamination of groundwater by fracturing fluids or mobilised contaminants arising from:
o wellbore/casing failure; and/or
o subsurface migration;
 contamination of land and surface water, and potentially groundwater via surface route, arising from:
o spillage of fracturing additives; and
o spillage/tank rupture/storm water overflow from liquid waste storage, lagoons/pits containing cuttings/drilling mud or flowback fluid;
 water consumption/abstraction;
 wastewater storage, transport and treatment;
 land and landscape impacts from;
o drill rig and well pad
o storage ponds or tanks
o access roads
 impacts arising during construction and pre-production:
o noise/light pollution during well drilling/completion;
o local traffic impacts;
 seismic impacts

8 February 2012

Health baseline information in impact assessment

The paucity of reliable health baseline information to carry out HIA in developing countries context has always been a key issue within the HIA discussion. There are arguments in favor of collecting and generating new data, but there are also arguments against this approach. The arguments against mainly center around: costs of data collection and ethical issues about invasive data collection mechanisms. The arguments in favor point to the lack of dependable data needed not only to assess the impacts, but also to monitor the recommendations measures and for the early identification of intended impacts.

Malaria offers a very goo example of the difficulties and challenges of using already existing data to estimate burden of disease in a given context.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published an article on the Lancet last Friday suggesting that 1.24 million people died from the mosquito-borne disease in 2010. This is twice what estimated by WHO and partners for the same year. The research used new data and new computer modeling to build a historical database for malaria between 1980 and 2010. WHO has just issued a communication welcoming the research and the effort, but basically WHO re-confirms the precedent estimate of 655 000 deaths attributable to malaria.

While everybody agrees that the burden is extremely high for both estimates, the difference between the 2 numbers is anyway of concern. The research involved trying to judge the impact of the misclassification of deaths in the affected regions. This readjustment alone generated a rise of 21% in the number of malaria deaths. Beside the effects that the mathematical model chosen has on the final data, the issue of the quality of initial data is essential. In the majority of settings where malaria is a feared killer, diagnosis is done clinically without any form of diagnostic devise. Fever is a symptom of malaria, but it is not necessarily malaria. In such settings the collection of baseline information on the health status and determinants of the population residing in the project foot print is therefore very important and the gathering methods should be designed to satisfy project information requirement and ethical aspects.

This discussion is an ongoing one within the HIA community and for those interested there is a session “Health baseline data within different impact assessments” at the next IAIA conference.

3 February 2012

New Report: Working for Equity in Health

Thanks to Adam Coutts.

The Working for Equity in Health context, situation analysis and evidence review presents a comprehensive overview of the evidence linking work, worklessness, social protection and health inequalities in Europe. It is hoped that this report will help stimulate policy makers, practitioners and researchers to think differently about how they might minimise the risks of widening health inequalities and approach the goal of improving the health of communities and populations.

Published 16 January 2012

2 February 2012

Is less more? Creating an HIA community of practice online

A terrific guest post from Liz Green, Principal Health Impact Assessment Development Officer at the Wales Health Impact Assessment Support Unit.

Having read Ben’s posting regarding a more sophisticated use of social media for health impact assessment it struck a chord with me – particularly what Ben’s comments about passive online engagement – and made me think about the subject more.

As someone who actively updates a website and sends out e-updates and newsletters to a number of communities, organisations, networks, practitioners and policy makers I found what Ben said interesting.  The Wales Health Impact Assessment Support Unit (WHIASU) does not have a specific comments section on its website but as the administrator I rarely get feedback – positive or negative.  Yet we know from statistical figures we obtain each month, that 1,000’s of people browse and actively download information, research evidence and HIA Reports from the site each month.  So why is it so hard to get a better sense of the HIA community and to generate networking through social media?

Personally, I think the answer to this question may be found in identifying the barriers to the current use of social media and I have listed them in no particular order:
  • Lack of time to contribute or the intention to post later and then not doing it.
  • Personal information overload.   Posting on your own Facebook pages etc can be demanding enough (I’ve given up on it now – all that updating, replying, friending and defriending) without having to do it for ‘work’ – unless, of course it is built into your job description and are therefore committed to doing it. 
  • Work information overload. HIA forms just a small component of many public health/health improvement/environmental practitioners’ job roles and they may be on several different competing contact lists and networks, health and non-health related – each having websites, sending out mail and updates and but do people really read them?  Are we bombarded now?  How many people honestly just press delete or only skim them because they get so many?  They may only have time to browse other more relevant media for their current work streams.  
  • We need to consider that some people are just not technologically savvy on emerging media like Twitter and this could form a barrier.
  • Posting and commenting can be seen as a small ‘club’  of a few expert practitioners who post and are highly active and know each other – and dare I say it - men? This can be off putting.
  • And this brings me to my final thought - I think the most important barrier to moving the use of social media is FEAR and lack of confidence.  People fear appearing to ask silly questions and/or replying to posts and being dismissed for it by others.  On the one hand, the internet can be a very private place to hide in but on the other, posting a comment into the unknown leaves people very exposed on a global level. If we consider this at the extreme then it could be true to say that professional reputations could be shattered with the press of a button.  The emergence of ‘Trolling’ has also made many sensitive to this.  On Facebook people do know each other and although they may have friends of friends etc it is still seen as a relatively ‘safe’ environment to contribute to.  The very term ‘friend’ makes it appear this way and people like personal interaction and have some semblance of control over their network. In Wales, I am known personally by most of the Public Health and HIA policy makers and practitioners (and many more people know of me) and whenever I send out an e-update I get lots of private replies back.  Even if I state others should be emailed in the first instance.  People know me and they know that they can ask me anything and I will not think that they are silly or stupid or don’t have a clue or whatever. I posted on a network site last week and came into work today to find the person whose post I had replied to had found my work email address and emailed me directly and was asking for lots of info and could I send it to him privately. It is a classic example.
I’m not sure what the answer to Ben’s question is.  In a small country like Wales, we may or may not be able to mobilise a community of practitioners who interact with each other in a more interactive way so it may be unrealistic to assume that it can be done on a global level.  Perhaps, we should be satisfied by the level of social media we have now and the few people who do post?  It may be unrealistic to expect more sophisticated levels at least in the short term.  Anonymity may help but then no-one knows who to approach for assistance, the credibility of the poster and the background to what is being said.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps ‘less is more’ and to just focus on being ‘on trend’ – targeting the most fashionable and usable media at any given time and that as trends come and go the focus will change.  The approach will be a much more fluid and flexible.

WHIASU aims to launch a forum on the WHIASU website this year.  However, we aim to utilise it in an active way – as a ‘drop in’ site discussing relevant pre posted issues for a 2 hour window.  I did one last year with a National Welsh Housing Organisation – and it worked quite well – once I got over the time lag and the queue building up of questions to answer.  It will be interesting to see what kind of response we get.

1 February 2012

HIA2012 Call for Abstracts

The scientific committee is launching a call for oral and poster presentations for the 12th International Conference on Health Impact Assessment (HIA).

For its first time in North America, the 2012 HIA International Conference will take place in Québec City from August 29 to 31, 2012. The Conference seeks on one hand to advance HIA practice in light of new knowledge, and on the other to prove its relevance, and to stimulate its use in various decision-making contexts. It is open to everyone whose decisions and actions may have an impact on health.

The Conference will be structured around four major thematic tracks:
  1. HIA in the policy-making process
  2.  Institutionalization of HIA: Addressing political and administrative issues.
  3. Diversity of practices: Developing a common thread, maintaining flexibility.
  4. Evaluation, research, and ethics: Advancing HIA practice. 

The deadline to submit a proposal for presentations is February 29, 2012. To submit a proposal, visit the Call for Abstracts page of the Conference Web site

EIS 2012 Appel à communications

Le comité scientifique lance un appel à communications orales et affichées pour la 12e Conférence internationale sur l'évaluation d'impact sur la santé (EIS).

Pour la première fois en Amérique, la Conférence internationale EIS 2012 aura lieu dans la ville de Québec du 29 au 31 août 2012. La Conférence vise d'une part à faire évoluer les pratiques de l'EIS à la lumière des nouvelles connaissances, et d'autre part à faire valoir sa pertinence et à stimuler son utilisation dans différents contextes de prise de décision. Elle s'adresse à l'ensemble des personnes dont les décisions et les actions peuvent avoir un impact sur la santé.

La Conférence sera articulée autour de ces quatre grands axes thématiques :

  1. La place de l'EIS dans le développement des politiques publiques.
  2. L'institutionnalisation de l'EIS : faire face aux enjeux politico-administratifs.
  3. La diversité des pratiques : une trame commune à dégager, une flexibilité à préserver.
  4. L'évaluation, la recherche et l'éthique : pour faire évoluer la pratique de l'EIS.
  5. La date limite pour soumettre une proposition est le 29 février 2012.

Pour soumettre une proposition, visitez la section Appel à communications du site Web de la Conférence