31 January 2012

Announcing the Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment

We are pleased to announce the creation of SOPHIA: The Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment. SOPHIA is a new organization serving the needs of health impact assessment practitioners. Developed by a working group from the 2010 HIA in the Americas Workshop, SOPHIA aims to provide leadership and promote excellence in the practice of health impact assessment. SOPHIA is guided by the following core values: democracy, equity, sustainability, ethical use of evidence, and comprehensive approach to health. By promoting and practicing a thorough and systematic consideration of health in decision making, SOPHIA will help achieve better health for all.

We would like to invite all HIA practitioners, whether experienced or novice, and those with a broader interest in HIA to become a member. Membership is free of charge initially and will offer the following benefits:

  • A formal network of HIA professionals and a regular practitioners' workshop hosted by SOPHIA at which emerging topics in HIA are discussed and thought through;

  • Published information on the conduct and context of HIA;

  • A forum for new practitioners to meet mentors and to support training and technical assistance for SOPHIA members;

  • Practice standards and guidance to assist practitioners; and

  • An opportunity for peer-review of proposed or completed HIAs to ensure the continued high quality of HIA.

The only requirement for membership is signing on to a statement pledging that you will conduct HIA in a manner that aligns with SOPHIA’s core values, as stated above and described more fully on the website.

To become a member, or for more information about SOPHIA, please visit www.hiasociety.org. Because SOPHIA is currently a volunteer-led organization, members will be expected to volunteer with the organization and will be given opportunities to do so.

SOPHIA Provisional Steering Committee

Chair: Jonathan Heller
Vice-chair: Murray Lee
Secretary: Liz Hodges Snyder
Treasurer: Marla Orenstein

20 January 2012

New $1,000 bursary available for first time IAIA conference delegates

The International Association for Impact Assessment is pleased to announce one US$1,000 President’s Bursary for IAIA12

An eligible applicant:

  • has not attended an IAIA conference before, 
  • is one whose work (academic, government, or industry) is in line with the conference theme, and
  • has submitted an abstract for IAIA12 by 31 January 2012. 

To apply send an email to info@iaia.org addressing how you meet the criteria above, and attach a 300-word document describing the paper to be presented at IAIA12 and its relevance to the conference theme (Energy Future). The application deadline is 31 January 2012. (Conference and abstract submission information is available at http://www.iaia.org/iaia12)

Video: Improving the Health of the United States

What would sophisticated use of social media actually look like?

I've been asked to participate in a panel on "sophisticated uses of social media for science" at the upcoming Australian Science Communicators National Conference. I feel like something of a fraud for doing this.

Firstly, I'm not a science communicator. At most I'm an applied scientist with an annoying habit of over-sharing who likes using social media. Secondly, my use of social media probably isn't that sophisticated. I've been blogging on one form or another since 2003 and I've been a Twitter and Facebook user for four or five years. I've set up listservs (they still exist!), sent out e-newsletters, gotten involved in several wiki projects, actively participated in LinkedIn groups and even given Quora a go.

I've tried to use all these things to communicate with health impact assessment practitioners and researchers, but at a bigger-picture level I've been trying to create a community of practice. I've met with mixed results.

All this activity has been successful in broadcasting news about health impact assessment and my research. More people know about my work and me. It's done my work and my career no harm and I think people generally appreciate it. But it's been a lot less successful in bringing together that community of practice that I set out to create.

Why? I'm not entirely sure. There is of course a hierarchy of participation in all social media. For everyone who generates content there's many more who comment, and there's many more than them who share online information in some way (usually by email). The great bulk of people still engage online in (seemingly) passive ways. The number of people I know who use Twitter just to follow people but who never interact astounds me. This blog attracts around 3,000 unique visitors a month but I can't recall the last time we got a comment. There are a few more on our Facebook page, but there's a lower barrier to commenting because of the medium.

A lot of these shortcomings may come back to how I use social media, in perhaps unsophisticated ways. This blog is rarely written in a way that invites comments (needs more outrage!). Infodumps are often quicker and easier. The @hiablog Twitter account is principally for sharing links and retweeting others. It's useful but it's rarely dynamic and I doubt it's sophisticated.

All this prompts me to wonder, what would sophisticated use of social media look like? What should I, as an applied social researcher who's committed to social media, be trying to do?

I'll have a go at answering my own question in the comments. I plan to use any ideas you have shamelessly at the conference panel :)

Ben (you can also contact me at @ben_hr or @hiablog)

18 January 2012

AusAID African regional capacity building stipends available for IAIA12 conference

Applications are being accepted for the IAIA12 AusAID Capacity Building Stipend Program.  Applications are due 1 February 2012.  Applicants must be
• African nationals employed in Africa,
• working for government, industry, or NGOs/civil society, and
• working with or in the extractive industries sector in the field of impact assessment or related areas.
Additional program details, including the program announcement and application form, are available online at http://www.iaia.org/iaia12.
IAIA wishes to express appreciation to AusAID and the Australian government for providing funding for these stipends.

15 January 2012

Health, Not Health Care: Changing the Conversation

It's a few years after the fact but the 2010 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is quite interesting and focuses on comprehensive primary health care and intersectoral action for health. It makes specific mention of HIA several times - worth a look.

14 January 2012

12 January 2012

Visual representations of stakeholders mapping and development scenarios

Mapping Architectural Controversies research project at the Manchester School of Architecture provides an interesting applied example of stakeholder mapping, categorization and analysis in relations to different development scenarios. Their simulation is a dynamic representation as interests and stakeholders shift over time as the project evolves. The project utilizes basic computer modeling techniques to make sense of and display the relationships and priorities of those driving complex projects, as well as those affected by them. Interesting is also the categorization of actors in: individuals, institutional and non human.

Wales Health Impact Assessment Best Practice Sharing Workshop 24th February 2012

From the WHIASU site:

The Wales Health Impact Assessment Support Unit (WHIASU) will be holding the third annual All Wales HIA Network Event on February 24th in the vibrant city of Cardiff.
The workshop is open to those interested in or practicing HIA in Wales.  It will aim to disseminate positive examples of HIA practice in Wales and provide a forum in which to discuss themes and issues of interest further. This forum will be in the form of 60 minutes allocated for discussion sessions and which will be driven by the participants.  This is time for you to discuss any issues that are important to your practice of HIA and enable you to share and learn from one another’s experience.  If you have any suggestions for themes that you would like to discuss at the workshop, then please send them to  Liz Green by January 30th 2012.

Places are limited so please register early.  There will be a nominal fee of £30 – this is refundable on attendance. If you would like further details, to register or express an interest in attending then please contact Julia Lester, Public Health Wales at Julia.lester2@wales.nhs.uk

Programme and further details will be published shortly.

11 January 2012

Eliminating Health Inequities: every woman and every child counts

This International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) report uses a human rights framework to tackle health inequities. It provides key evidence on how health inequities can and should be addressed through a holistic approach.

It argues that health inequities, and the resulting social injustice, are closely linked with poverty, gender inequality and human rights violations which in turn, have an impact on education, transport, health, agriculture, and overall well-being.

Interventions should therefore be multi-sectoral, going beyond health to address social and economic determinants – malnutrition, alcohol abuse, poor housing, indoor air pollution and poverty, among others.

There are some nice case studies from Egypt, Bangladesh, Malawi, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Austria, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Eritrea.

Click here to download the report.

Key recommendations:

Governments:   take the lead in prioritizing equity
  • Ensure universal access
    Governments should ensure universal access to evidence-based public health interventions for all and allocate health resources according to need.
  • Enable informed decision-making
    Governments should make accurate health information available to all so that everyone, particularly the most vulnerable, can make informed deci- sions about their health.
  • Take a holistic approach
    Governments should promote equality, solidarity, participation, non-discrim- ination and non-violence in all aspects of society, not just health, because tackling health inequities means tackling inequities in society in general.
  • Harness the power of a volunteer network
    Governments should make the most of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, who form part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, to eliminate health inequities. Volunteers are uniquely capable of reaching the most marginalized groups. Some volunteers are themselves members of these and, therefore, are an entry point for reaching those whom the formal health sector fails to reach.

National Societies:   scale up efforts
  • Reach the unreached
    Through their extensive volunteer networks, National Societies need to scale up their activities to bring prevention, treatment, care and support to those who are left out of the formal health system – the women and children who have the least access to appropriate health services. National Societies should expand their reach by encouraging health-seeking behaviours, as well as fostering social inclusion and peace.
  • Encourage prioritization and informed decision-making
    National Societies should use their status as auxiliaries to government to engage decision-makers to prioritize health equity and equity in all aspects of society and to hold authorities accountable.
  • Develop powerful partnerships
    In order to eliminate health inequities as quickly and effectively as possible, National Societies should engage in meaningful dialogue with key stakehold- ers and form strategic partnerships to increase the effectiveness of advocacy.

Donors:   create an enabling environment
  • Maintain and increase funding levels
    Given the current global economic crisis, any cuts in healthcare funding for mother-and-child programmes will have a devastating effect on the target groups – many will be exposed to even greater health risks and deeper lev- els of poverty. Peer pressure has meant that some donors have maintained their levels of funding, despite difficult economic circumstances in their own countries.
  • Align commitments with identified gaps
    Encourage skilled and adapted human resources for health, the coverage of essential mother, child and youth health interventions, and integration with other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Donors must ensure a well-balanced, effective and adapted response to bridge the gaps in the health of woman, child and young people.
  • Remember spending on health makes good economic and social sense
    Health spending is an investment that yields returns in individual and population health, education, and economic growth.
  • Continue to innovate in health financing
    In order to increase and improve health services in the world’s poorest countries, innovative funding mechanisms are necessary, which require the participation of a range of actors.
  • Start with the person, not the project or programme
    Investment in a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, integrated health approach is the only way forward. Standalone projects do have an impact, but the impact is limited. If a child is immunized but the mother dies in childbirth because of health service failures, the child’s welfare could hardly be con- sidered to have improved.

National Societies together with civil society:   help broker effective support
  • Become a responsible stakeholder for development
    Representatives from civil society organizations, the private sector and academia should play a greater role in helping their governments broker an international commitment that puts health inequity issues high on the development agenda. They should also ensure they commit to supporting countries in implementing effective measures to reduce the health gap, particularly for mothers and children. Civil society has a key role to play in being the voice of the voiceless.
  • Hold policy-makers to account
    Ensure that parliamentarians represent all their constituents, and take the right legislative and budgetary decisions. Ensure they hold themselves, and their executives, to account.

7 January 2012

Health and social services expenditures: associations with health outcomes

To examine variations in health service expenditures and social services expenditures across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and assess their association with five population-level health outcomes.

A pooled, cross-sectional analysis using data from the 2009 release of the OECD Health Data 2009 Statistics and Indicators and OECD Social Expenditure Database.

OECD countries (n¼30) from 1995 to 2005. Main outcomes: Life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low birth weight, maternal mortality and potential years of life lost.

Health services expenditures adjusted for gross domestic product (GDP) per capita were significantly associated with better health outcomes in only two of five health indicators; social services expenditures adjusted for GDP were significantly associated with better health outcomes in three of five indicators. The ratio of social expenditures to health expenditures was significantly associated with better outcomes in infant mortality, life expectancy and increased potential life years lost, after adjusting for the level of health expenditures and GDP.

Attention to broader domains of social policy may be helpful in accomplishing improvements in health envisioned by advocates of healthcare reform.

Behind a paywall
Health and social services expenditures: associations with health outcomes
Elizabeth H Bradley,1 Benjamin R Elkins,1 Jeph Herrin,2 Brian Elbel3
BMJ Qual Saf 2011;20:826e831. doi:10.1136/bmjqs.2010.048363 

3 January 2012

Health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials

This systematic review collected data concerning the effects of diets containing GM maize, potato, soybean, rice, or triticale on animal health.

They examined 12 long-term studies (of more than 90 days, up to 2 years in duration) and 12 multigenerational studies (from 2 to 5 generations). They referenced the 90-day studies on GM feed for which long-term or multigenerational study data were available. Many aspects were examined in the studies using biochemical analyses, histological examination of specific organs, hematology and the detection of transgenic DNA. The statistical findings and methods were considered from each study. 

Results from all the 24 studies do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed. However, some small differences were observed, though these fell within the normal variation range of the considered parameter and thus had no biological or toxicological significance. If required, a 90-day feeding study performed in rodents, according to the OECD Test Guideline, is generally considered sufficient in order to evaluate the health effects of GM feed. The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.

  • No significant differences in analyzed parameters were found in long-term studies.
  • No significant differences in analyzed parameters were found in multigenerational studies.
  • The 90-day OECD Test Guideline seems adequate and sufficient for evaluating health effects of GM plant diets.
  • The benefits of harmonizing experimental protocols in fundamental research to raise the quality of such studies are discussed.

Snell Chelsea, Bernheim Aude, Bergé Jean-Baptiste, Kuntz Marcel, Pascal Gérard, Paris Alain, Agnès E. Ricroch
Food and Chemical Technology, In Press, Uncorrected Proof, doi:10.1016/j.fct.2011.11.048

Full article available behind a paywall.

2 January 2012

New article on a Korean HIA

A new open access article on a Korean HIA has been published:

Kang E, Park HJ, Kim JE (2011) Health Impact Assessment as a Strategy for Intersectoral Collaboration, Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, 44(5):201-209
This study examined the use of health impact assessment (HIA) as a tool for intersectoral collaboration using the case of an HIA project conducted in Gwang Myeong City, Korea. 
A typical procedure for rapid HIA was used. In the screening step, the Aegi-Neung Waterside Park Plan was chosen as the target of the HIA. In the scoping step, the specific methods and tools to assess potential health impacts were chosen. A participatory workshop was held in the assessment step. Various interest groups, including the Department of Parks and Greenspace, the Department of Culture and Sports, the Department of Environment and Cleansing, civil societies, and residents, discussed previously reviewed literature on the potential health impacts of the Aegi-Neung Waterside Park Plan. 
Potential health impacts and inequality issues were elicited from the workshop, and measures to maximize positive health impacts and minimize negative health impacts were recommended. The priorities among the recommendations were decided by voting. A report on the HIA was submitted to the Department of Parks and Greenspace for their consideration. 
Although this study examined only one case, it shows the potential usefulness of HIA as a tool for enhancing intersectoral collaboration. Some strategies to formally implement HIA are discussed.

Access the article here