What Happens When a Major Medical Facility is Placed in a Residential Area? A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in Atlanta

Researchers at the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (affiliated with the Georgia Tech Research Corporation), working with a community group, developed a health impact assessment (HIA) on the health impact on residents, workers and patients of an expansion of Piedmont Hospital, a major medical institution located in an Atlanta residential neighborhood. They used tools they had developed doing an HIA of an Atlanta Beltline transportation project (see Program Results Report on ID# 053546).

In addition, team members conducted a review of relevant peer-reviewed literature and case studies and incorporated findings from the Beltline health impact assessment. Topics reviewed and key conclusions include:

  • Anchor Institutions.
  • Access and Social Equity.
  • Physical Activity
  • Safety from Injury.
  • Safety from Crime.
  • Social Capital.
  • Environmental Quality.

Key Findings

  • The project team produced a report, Hospital and Community Health HIA: A Study of Localized Health Impacts of Hospitals (June 2008), which includes the following key findings:

    • The population within the study area is on average wealthier and with better access to motorized transportation than average citizens in the city of Atlanta; it also has a smaller population belonging to minority ethnic groups. Within the study area, however, the most vulnerable populations (such as elderly people), live closest to Piedmont Hospital.
    • The study area can be roughly divided into primarily residential and commercial areas. Piedmont Hospital employs more than 8,000 people, while the entire area employs approximately 11,900.
    • The walkability audit found that many of the segments around Piedmont Hospital are not friendly to pedestrians or bicyclists, with broken or uneven sidewalks, little buffer between pedestrian and automotive traffic, and poor signage and lighting. Some 93 percent of the respondents to the survey said that from their home, it was possible to walk or bike to the grocery store, but more than 56 percent of them said they did so only a few times a year or never.

Recommendations: The report includes several recommendations for increasing opportunities for health and mitigating negative health impacts in the study area.