11 October 2012

Funding announced for Denver metro region

The Health Impact Project, with support from Kaiser Permanente Colorado, will fund one health impact assessment (HIA) program grant, of up to $250,000, for applicants in the Denver metropolitan region. The award will support:

  • At least two HIAs. Preference will be given to proposals that address transportation-related policies, projects, and plans. This includes land-use decisions related to transportation projects, such as transit oriented design. But, applicants are not limited to this sector.
  • A tailored, two-day HIA training for the grantee and their stakeholders, as well as ongoing mentoring and technical assistance throughout the grant period.
  • The development and implementation of a sustainability plan that establishes the relationships, systems, and funding mechanisms needed to maintain a stable HIA program that endures beyond the grant period.
  • Participation in the Health Impact Project’s national HIA program grant learning community comprised of all HIA program grants funded under this round.
  • Attendance at the September 2013 annual Grantee and National HIA Meetings in Washington, D.C., which will provide grantees an opportunity to meet, collaborate, and solve challenging questions that arise during their projects, as well as learn from leading HIA practitioners.
  • No prior HIA experience is necessary to be eligible for this HIA Program grant. Training, technical assistance, and mentoring will be provided throughout the grant period.
  • HIAs on transportation-related topics will be given preference. This includes land-use decisions related to transportation projects, such as transit oriented design. But, proposals are not limited to this policy area.

***NOTE: All eligible HIA program grant applicants from the Denver metro region that have already applied to the Health Impact Project’s national call for proposals (CFP) process will automatically be considered for the Kaiser Permanente Colorado grant opportunity.

Two differences of note between this funding opportunity and the Health Impact Project’s current national CFP include:

The Health Impact Project will host a conference call for potential applicants on October 18 at 2 p.m. MT. Registration is required.

Applications for the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Denver metropolitan HIA program grant opportunity are due Wednesday, October 31, 2012, at 5 p.m. MT.  

Visit the Health Impact Project Funding Opportunities page to learn more about the announcement and to begin the online application process.

Courtesy of Aaron Wernham, Health Impact Project

9 October 2012

Health Impact Assessment: A triumph over common sense?

I'm giving a plenary talk at the 4th Asia Pacific Health Impact Assessment Conference in Seoul this week. I've attached the slides, a detailed paper and abstract below. It may be a little niche but hopefully some of you will be interested.

Download the detailed paper of the talk (21 pages PDF)

Abstract Evaluations of health impact assessments (HIAs) have highlighted its potential impacts on decision-making, implementation and broader factors such as intersectoral collaboration (Harris-Roxas et al. 2011, Harris-Roxas et al. 2012b, Wismar et al. 2007). Tensions often arise between stakeholders about the outcomes of HIAs however. Studies that have looked at this have found that there are:
  • Often disagreements between stakeholders about the perceived purpose of the HIA and what form it should take (Harris-Roxas et al. 2012a, Harris-Roxas & Harris 2011); and
  • The perception that an HIA’s recommendations could have been identified through normal planning and implementation processes and that the HIA didn’t necessarily have to be conducted (Harris-Roxas et al. 2011). In other words, that an HIA’s recommendations are “common sense”.
These two issues, about the perceived purpose of HIA and the “common sense” nature of HIAs’ recommendations, lie at the heart of any discussion of the HIA effectiveness. These issues have also been under-explored in the literature to date. This plenary will present initial findings from a study that looked at two decision-support equity-focused HIAs of similar health sector proposals (local health service obesity prevention and treatment service plans) longitudinally. This involved conducting 23 semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders before, during and after the HIAs, and document reviews. One of the HIAs was completed while the other one was screened and determined to be unnecessary. This study is unique in relation to HIA to the authors’ knowledge, because it looks at expectations and perceptions of effectiveness before and after the HIAs were completed. It also compares two similar planning situations, one in which an HIA was conducted and one in which the HIA was screened out.

The study’s findings highlight that while many of the recommendations and distal impacts of an HIA (Harris-Roxas & Harris 2012) could notionally be anticipated through common sense analysis, in practice they are rarely foreseen. A similar phenomenon has been demonstrated in other fields such as organisational psychology and management (Orrell 2007, Watts 2011). This study also highlights the critical role that learning plays in impact assessment practice (Morgan 2012, Bond & Pope 2012). This learning takes three forms: technical, conceptual and participatory (Harris & Harris-Roxas 2010, Glasbergen 1999). Learning may also take place at individual, organisational and social levels. This suggests that “common sense” is anything but common in the real world of planning and decision-making, and for good reasons. What seems obvious in hindsight is rarely apparent in advance. HIA, as a structured process for looking at under-considered impacts, has an important role to play in moving beyond common sense towards broader learning and more nuanced analyses of alternatives.

8 October 2012

Why tackling inequality in the current financial situation remains important

Two different views and researches on the importance of cohesion and reducing inequalities. A study conducted by NCoC in partnership with other organisations, explores the relationship between civic engagement and economic resilience. It finds that the density and type of nonprofit organizations in a community, as well as its social cohesion, are important predictors of that community’s ability to withstand unemployment in a recession. The study identifies two main types of civic health that seem to matter most. One is the role of nonprofit organizations. The number of nonprofits per capita and the degree to which they directly engage local residents are both related to the unemployment rate. The other factor is social cohesion: interacting with friends and neighbors. Each type of civic engagement is separately valuable for preventing unemployment increases.
Nobel Prize winner and previous World Bank chief economist, Prof. Joseph Stiglitz was interviewed by the  German weekly The Spiegel on the raising inequality in the United States:  "the American dream has become a myth. The life chances of a young US citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country for which there is data. The belief in the American dream is reinforced by anecdotes, by dramatic examples of individuals who have made it from the bottom to the top -- but what matters most are an individual's life chances. The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data." In June, Stilglitz published a book on the same topic "The price of inequality: how today's divided society endangers our future". Stiglitz focus on the financial and econonimical aspects leading to inequality, but he uses several health examples in his book. 

7 October 2012

Towards noiseless turbines?

At the IAIA conference in Portugal we hosted a session on Community Responses to New Energy Sources. There were very interesting case studies of wind turbine projects in Australia and in the Netherlands (see the posts of May on this blog).
Wind energy is a constantly growing source of alternative energy worldwide and while it is accepted as green alternative to the usual coal and fossil fuels, local communities are not so supportive of wind parks in their backyard. Indeed deciding where to place wind turbines is a major challenge in the decision making process and one of the complaints often made by local inhabitants is noise.
A recent study reviews recent advances in the area of noise pollution from wind turbines. “To date, there have been many different noise control studies. While there are many different sources of noise, the main one is aerodynamic noise. The largest contributor to aerodynamic noise comes from the trailing edge of wind turbine blades. The aim of this paper is to critically analyse and compare the different methods currently being implemented and investigated to reduce noise production from wind turbines, with a focus on the noise generated from the trailing edge.”
The discussion is not over and community acceptance of new energy will remain a topic at the next conference in Calgary

5 October 2012

Japanese Health Impact Assessment Practice

Guest post by Michiko Hoshiko

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is not yet a routine part of public decision-making in Japan, though there are an increasing number of examples of HIA’s use.
Before any regulatory assessment measure can be adopted in Japan it’s necessary to demonstrate its economy, efficiency and effectiveness, so this forms the focus of much current HIA activity. In 2011 the Japanese Public Health Association produced guidance on HIA 1), focusing on how to do it.

The Kurume University School of Medicine and the University of Occupational Environmental Health have been centres for the development of HIA in Japan to date. The case studies below describe some of the HIAs and research that has been conducted.

Kurume University School of Medicine

1) Health impact assessment of the transition to a core city in Japan2)
The city of Kurume became a core city in 2008, which is a more autonomous level of regional government that some cities in Japan are eligible for. A core city requires a population at least 300,000 people and allows the transfer of administrative authority from prefecture to more independent municipal government. A rapid HIA was conducted on the transition to a core city because potential health impacts were identified for public servants in Kurume as well as residents.

2) Assessing the validity of health impact assessment predictions regarding a Japanese city’s transition to core city status: A monitoring review3)
The validity of health impact assessment predictions has not been accurately assessed comparing predictions with subsequent data. An HIA into the transition of Kurume to a core city was conducted before the transition, but the recommendations were not accepted and adopted by city officials. A monitoring review was performed one year after the transition to guage the accuracy of the HIA predictions by evaluating the correlation between the predicted impacts and what ended up happening.

3) Prioritization of health impact assessment on the management transformation of a municipal hospital in Japan
Municipal hospitals in Japan are currently facing a serious eonomic management crisis because of operating deficits and doctor shortages. Unprofitable departments, including obstetrics and paediatrics, have been closed at some hospitals, which has caused controversy in a number of local communities. The aim of our study was to examine the health-related impacts of management and service changes at a municipal hospital close to the Kurume University School of Medicine on residents, patients, and hospital staff.

4) Development of a Health Impact Assessment Screening Tool for Use at the Municipal Level4)
The aim of this study was to make an HIA screening tool for use at the municipal level in Japan. The HIA screening checklist is versatile and applicable across a range of projects. The intended users are municipal officers and as such we wanted it to be short and usable.

University of Occupational Environmental Health)

5) Development of HIA screening tools for policies and projects5)6)
In screening you try to identify as many potential health impacts as possible. This should include not only scientific knowledge but also “lay knowledge” that incorporates information such as the anxieties and fears of stakeholders. This screening tool allows stakeholders to participate in the identification of potential health impacts and to characterize them in terms of being positive and negative, as well as their potential severity. This is then used in the decision to proceed with the HIA or not.

6) HIA of closing a research laboratory7)
Due to changes in the economic climate a major laboratory for an international corporation was closed. An HIA was conducted to look at the potential impacts on workers, who are both domestic and come from overseas.

7) HIA for introducing for reemployment system after retirement8)
Japan is facing a rapidly ageing population, with reduced birth rates and the retirement of the post-war Baby Boomers. A number of companies have reintroduced “re-employment” shemes for workers who have already retired to address workforce shortages. This HIA looked at the potential positive and negative health impacts of re-employment schemes.

4 October 2012

The Prosperity of Cities is closely linked to a notion of development which include equity and environmental sustainability

Development actors need to explore a more inclusive notion of prosperity and development, finds new UN-Habitat report The State of the World’s Cities 2012/2013: The Prosperity of Cities.
According to the report, there is a need for a shift in attention around the world in favour of a MORE ROBUST NOTION OF DEVELOPMENT – one that looks beyond the narrow domain of economic growth that has dominated ill-balanced policy agendas over the last decades, and includes other vital dimensions such as quality of life, adequate infrastructures, equity and environmental sustainability.
“In this Report, UN-Habitat advocates for a new type of city – the city of the 21st century – that is a „good‟, people centred city,” said Dr Joan Clos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat.
“The cities of the future should be ones that are capable of integrating the tangible and more intangible aspects of prosperity, in the process shedding off the inefficient, unsustainable forms and functionalities of the city of the previous century or so and becoming the engine rooms of growth and development.”
·         Reduces disaster risks and vulnerabilities for the poor and build resilience to adverse forces of nature.
·         Creates harmony between the five dimensions of prosperity and enhances the prospects for a better future.
·         Stimulates local job creation, promotes social diversity, maintains a sustainable environment and recognizes the importance of public spaces.
·         Comes with a change of pace, profile and urban functions and provides the social, political and economic conditions of prosperity.
The UNISDR report "Making Cities Resilient 2012 -- My city is getting ready! A global snapshot of how local governments reduce disaster risk" complements UN-HABITAT’s findings. Margareta Wahlström, Head, UNISDR, said that several elements used by UN-HABITAT to assess city prosperity, such as equity and good governance, also bolster disaster resilience. "The findings from our own studies on cities show that low socio-economic development need not necessarily limit all resilience-building activities, especially when the central government and multilateral agencies work together to ensure the right people come together to take action," said Wahlström said

3 October 2012

Newletter from CREIS focusing on Quebec conference

The third newsletter is dedicated to the HIA International Congress held last August in Quebec, Canada. But it does have also other interesting news on HIA and it is published in spanish.
Find the newsletter here