New Projects Bring Health Considerations Into Education, Energy Policy, and Other Decisions

    • April 2, 2013

Washington, D.C.—The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, today announced eight new grant recipients who will receive funding to conduct health impact assessments, or HIAs. The projects will bring health considerations into upcoming decisions on topics including education, sanitation infrastructure, and energy. The grantees were selected based on their response to a national call for proposals.

“Our new grantees will use health impact assessments to uncover opportunities to improve health in a wide range of policy decisions, as well as to identify and avoid potential unintended consequences,” said Aaron Wernham, MD, director of the Health Impact Project. “These eight HIAs are the latest in a fast-growing field, as more cities and states find them a useful way to bring health into decisions in other sectors.”

By the end of 2007, there were 27 completed HIAs in the United States. There are now more than 225 completed or in progress, according to the Health Impact Project map of HIA activity in the United States.

Two additional foundations joined the call for proposals with funding to support more HIAs: the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation and The California Endowment.

The new grantees include:

  • An affiliated partnership of the Detroit Urban Research Center (D-HIA) will conduct an HIA to inform the implementation of the Detroit Future City: Detroit Strategic Framework Plan. Developed to address challenges associated with reduced population and revenues, the plan will guide decisions on economic growth, land use, city systems, and neighborhoods. A key strategy of the plan is to redistribute investments in city services and infrastructure—such as street lighting, waste collection, roads, and blight reduction—toward more populated parts of Detroit. Greater investments in such areas may stabilize neighborhoods and improve safety, although reduction of services in high-vacancy areas creates potential challenges for remaining residents. The HIA will examine the plan’s impact on issues such as neighborhood stability and social support systems, financial security, environmental conditions, and public safety, and it will make recommendations to protect and improve residents’ health.
  • Human Impact Partners, a national nonprofit, will conduct an HIA to inform the Minnesota legislature’s consideration of a state education task force’s recommendations to address school integration and improve education outcomes for students of color. In partnership with ISAIAH, a faith-based organization in St. Paul, the HIA will examine how school integration affects both academic achievement and cross-race understanding and how those, in turn, influence health issues such as lifespan, chronic disease, and mental health. The process, findings, and recommendations will help ensure that these issues are factored into the legislature’s decisions. This project is supported by funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
  • An HIA by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, in collaboration with the Purchase District Health Department, will examine the potential health benefits and risks of the retrofit or retirement of the Shawnee coal plant in Paducah, Ky., operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The HIA will analyze environmental health concerns associated with air and water pollution from the plant and the effects of its closure on community employment, individual income, and revenue for local services important to health. The HIA will also factor in a separate but related issue: whether the U.S. Department of Energy will renew a contract with a nearby uranium enrichment plant that depends on power from the coal plant.
  • Mount Sinai School of Medicine will provide information to policymakers in Puerto Rico on their decision whether to finance a comprehensive development plan to improve sanitation infrastructure, as well as dredge and remove heavily polluted sludge from an estuarine tidal channel in San Juan. The HIA will examine potential health risks and benefits associated with the proposed project, including exposure to environmental hazards, perceived displacement, and health risks related to unsanitary living conditions. Partners will include the Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña, a redevelopment authority, and the local community-based organization Grupo de las Ocho Comunidades Aledañas al Caño Martín Peña, or G-8 Inc.
  • National Indian Justice Center will undertake an HIA on a proposed solar project to examine the health risks and benefits for Native American communities in the Mojave Desert. The HIA will analyze potential health impacts associated with changes in access to resources that are part of tribal cultural practices, including traditional foods, as well as changes in substance abuse and mental health. Benefits tied to the renewable energy project will also be considered, including improved air quality from reduced emissions and opportunities for employment with health insurance. The HIA will be conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the California Energy Commission, and affected tribes, tribal leaders, and tribal health advocates.
  • Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc. will undertake an HIA to inform decisions regarding a proposed casino in western Massachusetts. Decision-makers—including the state gaming commission, local government officials, and voters—will consider the siting options of Springfield, West Springfield, and Palmer, as well as licensing and regulation, and design and development of the casino. The HIA will examine health risks that might be linked to gambling—including substance abuse, mental health, and injury—and potential health benefits related to employment opportunity, access to health insurance, and community revenues.
  • University of Texas at El Paso, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, will conduct an HIA to inform the Village of Vinton, Texas, regarding the impacts of proposed water and sanitation improvement projects and of certification and funding decisions on this and similar projects by the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and the North American Development Bank. Vinton is a small, incorporated village on the U.S.-Mexican border that primarily relies on failing septic tanks and cesspools for wastewater removal and domestic wells with poor water quality. Poor water quality and sanitation are associated with gastrointestinal illnesses and ailments such as hepatitis, dysentery, and associated dehydration. Improved systems are expected not only to improve public health but also to support economic development and long-term sustainability of local businesses and industry.
  • Youth UpRising, a California nonprofit that fosters youth leadership through civic engagement, will conduct an HIA to inform decisions by the Oakland Unified School District to potentially fund a specialized learning academy within Castlemont High School. Located in a community dealing with high crime, violence, poverty, and unemployment, the school currently faces disinvestment, decreased enrollment, and a dropout rate of 40 percent. The proposed academy would prepare at-risk students to transition to post-secondary learning and employment opportunities by providing support beyond the school day, including internship opportunities. The HIA will explore the potential impacts of this academic model and connect educational attainment, employment, and income to related health outcomes, such as chronic disease and mental illness. It will offer recommendations regarding specifications of the appropriations and design for implementation of the academy. Youth will be key partners in the HIA process. This project is supported by funding from The California Endowment.


Media Contacts:    

Christine Clayton | Robert Wood Johnson Foundation | | 609-627-5937
Alex Dery Snider | Health Impact Project | | 202-540-6590


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. Follow the Foundation on Twitter ( or Facebook (


About the Health Impact Project

The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a national initiative exclusively dedicated to promoting the use of health impact assessments in the United States. More information, including a searchable map of HIA activity in the U.S., is available at

Children walking to school with the help of a crossing guard.

The range of policy decisions HIAs can inform is seemingly limitless, from infrastructure projects to energy-assistance programs. With each new HIA, communities are learning more about how best to use this tool to minimize risks and capitalize on opportunities to improve health.

Read brief HIA case studies >

Read more stories about HIAs on our public health blog >