What's the Impact on Health? Experts Explore Issues in Using Health Impact Assessments to Find Out

Workshop to advance the use of health impact assessments to determine the impact of policies and projects on health

In 2004, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) hosted a workshop in which national and international experts explored issues associated with advancing the use of health impact assessments.

A health impact assessment (HIA) is a set of procedures and tools decision-makers and policy-makers can use to evaluate the potential health impact of projects, policies and programs on the health of a population. HIA's can be used by local health departments, planning commissioners and other decision-makers to evaluate the impact on health of policies and projects in community design, transportation planning and other areas outside traditional public health concerns.

Key Results:

  • The Health Impact Assessment Workshop took place on October 12–13, 2004, at RWJF's headquarters in Princeton, N.J. Twenty-two people attended.

    The objectives of the workshop were to explore key research questions regarding the methods used in health impact assessment and to advance the use of the assessments by community decision-makers in the United States.

Key Recommendations:

  • Conduct pilot tests of existing health impact assessment tools, ranging from simple checklists to complex collaborative processes.
  • Develop a database of health impacts of common projects and policies.
  • Develop resources for the use of health impact assessment, which may vary according to scope of the project, depth of analysis, time available and processes employed.
  • Build workforce capacity to conduct health impact assessments.
  • Evaluate health impact assessments.

The project team published an article on the workshop in the American Journal of Public Health (Dannenberg AL, et al. "Growing the Field of Health Impact Assessment in the United States: An Agenda for Research and Practice." American Journal of Public Health, 96(2): 262–270, 2006. Available online.).

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