Health Impact Assessments are Needed in Decision Making about Environmental and Land-Use Policy

The importance to public health of environmental decisions—including those about land use, transportation, power generation, agriculture and environmental regulation—is increasingly well documented. Yet many decision-makers in fields not traditionally focused on health continue to pay little if any attention to the important health effects of their work.

This article examines the emerging practice of health impact assessment and offers real-world examples of its effective implementation, including studying the impact of nearby highways—a major source of air pollution—on proposed new housing for seniors. The article argues that officials at the federal, state and local levels should consult health experts and consider using health impact assessments when their decisions on such issues as urban planning, land use and environmental regulation have the potential to directly affect the conditions in which people live and work.