26 November 2012

Free Online Training! WHO/Europe Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling

WHO/Europe’s Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling is an online resource to estimate the economic savings resulting from reductions in mortality as a consequence of regular cycling and/or walking (see www.heatwalkingcycling.org). HEAT can be used by walking and cycling campaigners, researchers and policymakers alike. It enables users to estimate the value to health of new infrastructure, policies or programmes. These can be used to make the case for new investment, or as inputs to comprehensive health impact assessments.

To help people in the use of this tool, WHO/Europe is now offering online training sessions on the following dates:
•         30 November 2012
•         14 December 2012
•         14 January 2013
•         22 February 2013
•         15 March 2013

All sessions will start at 15:00 Central European Time, and will last approximately one hour. During this time you will be walked through an example of HEAT, and be able to ask questions online to experts on HEAT.

Please register by sending an e-mail to training@heatwalkingcycling.org stating:
•         The date of the session you wish to join
•         Any details of ways that you have used the HEAT
•         Any specific questions you would like addressed during the training

We will then send you details of how to log on and access the training session in due time.

Please feel free to forward this message to other colleagues or mailing lists of possibly interested HEAT users.

Kind regards,
Christian Schweizer
Technical Officer, Transport and Health
Division of Communicable Diseases, Health Security and Environment
World Health Organization - Regional Office for Europe

WHIASU Guest Post: Revisiting health impact assessment guidance in Wales

Guest post by Liz Green, Principal HIA Development Officer, Wales HIA Support Unit/Public Health Wales

On 1st November 2012, the Wales Health Impact Assessment Support Unit (WHIASU) published new health impact assessment Guidance.  HIA: A Practical Guide replaced the original HIA Guide published in 2004 ‘Improving Health and Reducing Inequalities:  A Practical Guide to HIA’.  There were a number of reasons that the Unit (and Welsh Government) wanted and needed to not only revise the first edition but substantially add to it and enhance its ability to inform, influence and support a wide range of citizens, communities and organisations in the practice of health impact assessment in Wales (and beyond).

It is over 10 years since the establishment of a dedicated HIA Unit in Wales.  WHIASU embodies the partnership of a public health organisation (Public Health Wales) with the academic, social science based research expertise of Cardiff University and recognises the importance of developing the process in practice whilst researching its impact, influence and its important role in developing a broad health and wellbeing consciousness.  Since 2001, much has changed - including the increasing number of political drivers and policies which advocate for the use of HIA and a consideration of ‘Health in All Policies’ and the restructuring of public health in Wales.  It was an appropriate time to reflect on and revisit the guidance, amend and update it.

Although not a statutory requirement in Wales, HIA is now recommended as best practice as a method of considering health and wellbeing in a wide range of sectors – including traditionally ‘non health’ domains such as transport, waste and land use planning and regeneration. It has also been a mandatory requirement for all open cast mining developments since 2009.   Therefore, the Unit needed to provide easily accessible, relevant information, advice and links to resources an for not only the increasing number of communities, policy makers, practitioners and organisations who are subsequently interested in HIA but to also provide a modern, theoretical and practical document for the increasing number of private consultants commissioned to undertake HIA’s in Wales.  WHIASU has become increasingly called upon to provide guidance, advice and some support to these paid private consultants of HIA’s - but as a publicly funded resource it is neither within our remit nor with limited capacity could we fulfil this role in a sustainable way – and the new guide has been developed to partly address this.

The publication of a new guide is also a response to the knowledge and expertise accumulated from the rapid increase in the number of HIA’s that have been conducted in Wales.  Since 2004, over 100 HIA’s of differing levels, scale and scope have been completed.  Each one has contributed to the practice and development of HIA and given us insight into the process and new and more appropriate tools and resources to support it have been developed.  New screening tools, checklists and methods of working and participation have been created and this knowledge has been condensed into ‘HIA: A Practical Guide’.  The information contained within it is accessible but also provides some more advanced context and resources (within a reasonably short document).  These include topics that WHIASU is frequently requested to advise on - such as commissioning HIA’s, citizen involvement in and community led HIA’s and the quantification of impacts.  This is in recognition of the ever increasing number of policy makers and practitioners in Wales who have been involved in and contributed to HIA’s, and who need to build on that basic knowledge and develop it further.  For example, the Unit is regularly asked to quality assure HIA’s that have been completed and by providing context and tools for consultants, local public health teams and communities in tandem with some advice, it has allowed the Unit to focus on other aspects of training, development and research work.

Research has been a core element of WHIASU’s role in developing capacity and improving the practice of HIA in Wales and this learning has also shaped the new guide.  Many of WHIASU’s academic papers and reports have drawn on the experiences of HIA’s undertaken at different levels, reflecting different concerns, and involving combinations of different sectors.  Research is also important in informing individual HIAs and the findings from these reports have sometimes had wider influence and impact.  For instance,  the Margam Opencast Mining HIA  not only influenced a local planning decision  but it also triggered planning guidance for the use of participatory HIA as part of all opencast applications in Wales.  Other papers by the Unit focus on community and citizen involvement in HIA as a way of developing ‘civic intelligence’ and creating ‘new knowledge spaces’ for health improvement.  WHIASU also recognises the need to provide useful and timely resources to inform decisions in a rapidly changing social and economic environment and stand alone working papers and guidance documents that that Unit has produced includes a report on the impact of the economic downturn in Wales, an overview of public participation in HIA, and best practice reports on opencast mining and waste technologies.

Finally, although the Unit has the WHIASU website and regularly shares published reports, work and research – much of it is still invisible.  The guide has been an excellent way of disseminating some of this tacit knowledge.

15 November 2012

Health Day at the next IAIA conference in Calgary, get engaged!

The health section is proud to announce the special Health Day “The science and art of international HIA practice” at the next IAIA conference in Calgary,
HIA has established itself as a widespread, credible and useful activity that is conducted in increasingly sophisticated ways. This field’s focus has moved beyond describing HIA and how it can be used, to more nuanced understandings of HIA methods and their impacts on decision-making and implementation.
HIA is forum for dialogue across disciplines and stakeholders, ensuring decisions that affect health outcomes are influenced at the conception phases, rather than treating the problems at a later date. However the nuanced challenges encountered while conducting HIA have not been widely disseminated by the HIA community. The development of the field is hampered by this lack of collective exchange and learning about the practice of HIA.
The current diversity of HIA practice will continue to enable a disparate range of HIA-related activities but more needs to be done to facilitate the dialogue across HIA practices as well as across Impact Assessments.
 In this health day, HIA practitioners will reflect on what we have learned through the application of HIA, and how HIA has to evolve to be better fit for the challenges ahead. The objective is not to reinvent HIA, but concerns translating the practice of practitioners from different backgrounds and geographical settings, through sharing knowledge, to better HIA practice. The International Association for Impact Assessment is the natural place for a thoughtful and productive discussion about the future development of HIA in a changing world.
Consistent with the Calgary theme the health section want to promote this discussion among HIA practitioners with the input of other impact assessment experts. The health day start with a theme forum with internationally renowned speakers, followed by two kaleidoscopic paper sessions and a final discussion workshop. But there are plenty of other health related events.
What next? check the preliminary program on line, follow us for updates, and get ready for the conference.
Hope to see you all in Calgary!

2 November 2012

Pollution need to be considered an urgency as other health threats

The World’s Worst Pollution Problems” Assessing Health Risks at Hazardous Waste Sites report has just been releases and reveals that close to 125 million people are at risk from toxic pollution across 49 low to middle-income countries. Also, the report, for the first time estimates the total global burden of disease attributed to toxic pollution from industrial sites in these countries. Blacksmith Institute found that the public health impact of industrial pollutants, measured in DALYs, is the same or higher than some of the most dangerous diseases worldwide. Below is a comparison of the DALYs for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to the DALYs from industrial pollutants.
Industrial Pollutants

The substances included are lead, chromium, mercury, and asbestos. The Top Ten industrial sources are: lead-acid battery recycling, lead smelting, mining and ore processing, tanneries, industrial and municipal dump sites, industrial estates, artisanal gold mining, product and chemical manufacturing, and the dye industry.
The lancet editorial rightly call the international health community to become more active in tackling and addressing hazardous substance pollution to achieve healthy and sustainable development worldwide.

New Welsh Health Impact Assessment Guidance

The Wales Health Impact Assessment Support Unit (WHIASU) is pleased to announce the publication of the new health impact assessment (HIA) guidance for Wales.

‘HIA: A Practical Guide’ replaces the previous guidance ‘Improving Health and Reducing Inequalities: A Practical Guide to HIA’ and contains new and updated resources, information and links to evidence and practice.  It gives policy makers and practitioners alike an overview of the Welsh approach to HIA and includes background policy context as much as practical information.  It is now available at www.whiasu.wales.nhs.uk.

The guide has several new sections including the role of community knowledge and stakeholders HIA, quantification and qualitative methods of assessing health and wellbeing impacts and provides new resources such as Screening Appraisal and Scoping Checklists, ‘How to Commission a HIA’ and ‘Quality Assuring a HIA’.  These are all available as individually downloadable documents distinct from the main guide.
Hard copies are also available should you require them.  Please email Liz Green, Liz.green@wales.nhs.uk or Chloe Chadderton, Chaddertonc@cardiff.ac.uk.