28 March 2013

HIA Gateway moving and changing but still staying the same

Fro Dr Sue Wright, HIA Gateway Manager:

The HIA Gateway is moving. It is part The Network of Public Health Observatories group (this was previously known as the Association of Public Health Observatories) but from 1st April the website (including myself) is moving into an executive agency of the Department of Health, called Public Health England (PHE). The HIA Gateway will become part of the PHE portal (website) and this in turn will be accessed from the English Government Domain website: www.gov.uk . This means that the HIA Gateway is now secure for the foreseeable future.

The term "HIA Gateway" will remain but may become "PHE HIA Gateway" or Public Health England HIA Gateway and existing URLs for the HIA Gateway will still be operational and you will be redirected to the HIA Gateway landing page on the PHE portal.

I am unclear at this stage if the monthly emails will still be sent out nor if and how people will be able to register with the HIA Gateway alone. Registration with the HIA Gateway has ensured you receive a monthly email listing recent resources added to the website.

I will also be contacting those people on the People’s Directory and Contractor’s Directory in the near future to check if they wish to remain on the HIA Gateway now it has moved into PHE.

Thank you for your continuing support and if you have any HIAs or other resources you think relevant to the practice of HIA, MWIA or any other health related Impact Assessment, do please forward these on to me (or if you prefer links to these).

Take home key points:
  • The HIA Gateway will become a formalised part of the new national public health agency of England.
  • www.hiagateway.org.uk will still direct you to the HIA Gateway site as it currently does. 
  • Those using the existing actual URL should check to ensure that they have updated the URL to the new one generated when the site becomes a micro-site of the larger Public Health England website or use www.hiagateway.org.uk.
  • Please continue to email Sue with your HIAs and other resources so she can put them on the site.

26 March 2013

Extracting the facts: an investor guide to disclosing risks from hydraulic fracturing operations

This guide by the Investor Environmental health network offers best practice recommendations to energy companies for reporting and reducing risks and impacts from natural gas operations in shale relying on hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as "fracking"). The guide can be a resource for companies responding to the Securities and Exchange Commission's growing interest in the environmental risks from fracturing operations, especially chemical and water management, and assists companies seeking to implement a November 2011 US Department of Energy advisory panel recommendation that companies "adopt a more visible commitment to using quantitative measures as a means of achieving best practice". The guide suggests goals, practices and indicators, providing existing examples from numerous companies.

The guide is organized around 12 core goals and supporting practices and indicators. These include:
1. Manage risks transparently and at Board level
2. Reduce surface footprint
3. Assure well integrity
4. Reduce and disclose all toxic chemicals
5. Protect water quality by rigorous monitoring
6. Minimize fresh water use
7. Prevent contamination from waste water
8. Minimize and disclose air emissions
9. Prevent contamination from solid waste and sludge residuals
10. Assure best in class contractor performance
11. Secure community consent
12. Disclose fines, penalties and litigation

21 March 2013

"There are already mechanisms in place": same old arguments against health impact assessment?

The Australian Senate
The Australian Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs released a report on Australia's domestic response to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health report "Closing the gap within a generation" last night. The response to the report seems lukewarm to me, though that may be coloured by my personal sense that this represents another missed opportunities for intersectoral action for health in Australia. The Social Determinants of Health Alliance released a fairly upbeat press release.

From an HIA and Health in All Policies perspective there are a few interesting sections. I'll post two reasonable lengthy excerpts below so you can make up your own mind. This is from the Government response section:

19 March 2013

HIA 2013 - Geneva, Switzerland - 2-4 Oct 2013

Date for your diary; the HIA International Conference is in Geneva, Switzerland and will take place between the 2-4 October 2013.
The website is at:
www.hianet2013.net [English] 
www.eis2013.net [French]

14 March 2013

Two HIA job opportunities in San Francisco

Thanks to Tim Choi for letting us know about this.
The Program on Health, Equity and Sustainability is seeking a full-time Data Analyst and a Communications Specialist, who will be hired through the San Francisco Public Health Foundation, to support the San Francisco Department of Public Health's health impact assessment (HIA) work for a five month period.

The Data Analyst will support data collection, analysis and visualization used in HIA to inform public policy on housing and neighborhood conditions that impact health.

The Communications Specialist will develop impactful "storytelling" and visualizations that can be used to support future HIA work and policy recommendations on healthy housing and/or other key healthy community design initiatives.

Both positions have an anticipated start date of April 1, 2013.
More details here

13 March 2013

Request for Proposals: Greenways and Green Infrastructure Health Impact Assessment

Shelby County Government (Tennessee) is seeking proposals from interested and qualified consultants or consultant teams to conduct an assessment of the impact on public health of greenways, green infrastructure, and other green spaces, including how existing and planned greenways and trails in the study area impact public health. The consultant or consultant team will develop an assessment tool that can be used by the community to consider the health impacts of greenways, green infrastructure, and green spaces as part of the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan process and beyond. 

Bids will be accepted through March 28, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

For more information, please visit shelbycountytn.gov/bids.aspx?bidID=534 to download the full RFP and bidding instructions.

11 March 2013

Health equity impact assessment - new journal article

New journal article from Sue Povall, Fiona Haigh, Debbie Abrahams and Alex Scott-Samuel at IMPACT.


The World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health has called for ‘health equity impact assessments' of all economic agreements, market regulation and public policies. We carried out an international study to clarify if existing health impact assessment (HIA) methods are adequate for the task of global health equity assessments. We triangulated data from a scoping review of the international literature, in-depth interviews with health equity and HIA experts and an international stakeholder workshop. We found that equity is not addressed adequately in HIAs for a variety of reasons, including inadequate guidance, absence of definitions, poor data and evidence, perceived lack of methods and tools and practitioner unwillingness or inability to address values like fairness and social justice. Current methods can address immediate, ‘downstream’ factors, but not the root causes of inequity. Extending HIAs to cover macro policy and global equity issues will require new tools to address macroeconomic policies, historical roots of inequities and upstream causes like power imbalances. More sensitive, participatory methods are also required. There is, however, no need for the development of a completely new methodology.

More: heapro.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/.../heapro.dat012.shor...

7 March 2013

Funding available to support health impact assessments (HIAs) in Minnesota, USA

Three grants of up to US$100,000 is available for conducting HIAs in Minnesota.

Brief proposals are due by Wednesday, May 15 2013.

Who Can Apply 
The primary purpose of this project is to develop the capacity of Minnesota organizations to conduct HIAs. Eligible applicant organizations must be located in Minnesota and include: 
  • state, tribal, or local agencies; 
  • tax-exempt educational institutions; 
  • tax-exempt organizations described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (including public charities and private foundations).
Applicants need not have experience with HIA to apply. They should have knowledge of the decision-making process that they aim to inform and the ability to communicate effectively with all of the stakeholders, including individuals and organizations that will be affected by the decision, elected officials, and agency staff. Grantees will receive training, mentoring, and technical assistance from the Health Impact Project and leading HIA experts.

Key Dates
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Request for proposals announced

Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 5:00 p.m. CT      
Brief proposals due 

Friday, May 31, 2013     
Notification of full proposal invitation

Monday, July 1, 2013, 5:00 p.m. CT      
Full proposals due through online application system

August 2013     
Anticipated start date for selected projects

September 23, 2013     
Grantee meeting

September 24-25, 2013      
National Health Impact Assessment Meeting

August 2014      
Anticipated end date for selected projects

Selection Criteria
All full proposals will be screened for eligibility and then assessed by a committee composed of Health Impact Project staff, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation staff, and expert, external reviewers. 

Selection will be based on the following: 
  • Whether the HIA will inform a decision for a proposed policy, program, or project that is under active consideration. The proposals must address decisions that can be reasonably anticipated within or shortly following the grant period;
  • Significance of the pending policy, program, or project decision to health and health equity; 
  • A strong plan for engaging key stakeholders—community members and community-based organizations, decision-makers, relevant public agencies and leaders, and others—at each step of the HIA;
  • A clear outline for disseminating the findings and supporting the adoption and implementation of the HIA recommendations;
  • Potential for the HIA to add to the decision-making process by addressing health issues that are not already known or may not be immediately obvious, by analyzing and clarifying complex health effects, by identifying any differential impacts on vulnerable populations, and by generating health-based recommendations not already under consideration;
  • The potential for the HIA to build new and enduring partnerships between public health organizations and nonhealth sectors such that health will be more regularly factored into future decisions;
  • A well thought-out staffing plan with adequate staff time and commitment of senior leadership;
  • Reasonableness of proposed budget and project timeline.

For more information see:

Does health impact assessment protect health? Is that the right question?

There's a thought-provoking piece at ABC Environment on Does environmental impact assessment protect the environment? The piece quotes several well-known Australian EIA academics about how well EIA in Australia is performing in terms of environmental protection.

There's no consensus in the piece about whether EIA is successfully protecting the environment or not, though some different ways of thinking about it are discussed. I think that's because the article dances around the core issue: what is the purpose of EIA? This may seem axiomatic and uncontested but I wonder if it's an under-examined difference between the goals and purpose of impact assessments.

5 March 2013

The health impacts of diesel exhaust: Australian radio documentary

Dangerous Diesel is an interesting radio documentary on the health impacts of diesel exhaust. The program is Western Australia-focused and some nuance about the evidence on health impacts is lost, nonetheless the program is worth listening to.

Program Link

4 March 2013

Building Health and Equity Into Policy: Health Equity Impact Assessments

Guest post by Dr Bob Gardner, Director of Policy at the Wellesley Institute

Addressing 'wicked' policy and social problems such as systemic health inequities and their underlying social determinants requires comprehensive and coordinated action across government and other sectors -- and that needs good planning.  Health equity impact assessments have been emphasized here in Ontario and in many other jurisdictions as one key way to ensure equity is embedded in planning.

Wellesley has been undertaking more specifically policy orientated angles on health equity impact assessment (HEIA).  When a Commission was established in Ontario to examine the reform of the social assistance system we worked with a broad collaborative of public health, Community Health Centres, hospitals and other health care organizations to provide input.  The theme of our several briefs and meeting with the Commissioners was how to ensure that any reformed system took population health and health equity into account and we set out concrete recommendations on how to create a health enabling system.

We then developed a series of analyses that we explicitly framed as policy-orientated HEIAs.  We called this series the Real Cost of ... because we were often unfortunately arguing that a particular policy or direction would have an adverse and inequitable impact on health, especially for particular vulnerable populations.  These papers dissect the population health implications of the particular policy, review available evidence on the expected impact of implementation, identify health and equity consequences of implementation, and recommend ways to avoid or mitigate that adverse impact.  We have done such Real Cost analyses of:

  • proposed Toronto budget cuts to social and community programs;
  • federal reductions in health care programs for refugees.  Again, this came out of working with a broad collaboration of researchers, clinicians and community organizations, and we have subsequently set out action steps that various levels of government and providers need to undertake to address the consequences of the federal cuts.  We have also continued to comment as the policy unfolded: for example, when the government released its list of designated safe countries -- which had drastic implications for  the levels of services available to refuges categorized on this list.  We presented to the Toronto Board of Health and to other committees on the health challenges facing refugees and undocumented people.
  • Ontario's proposed cuts to a particularly important and flexible social assistance program called Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefits.  This project subsequently led to developing a map-based on-line tracking tool to monitor the social impact of these changes in communities across the province.
  • Recent debates on whether a casino should be located in Toronto -- here also, we working collaboratively with public health and other partners, held a forum on the health equity implications of casinos and problem gambling, and presented to the Toronto Board of Health, which recommended not proceeding with a casino.

These policy-orientated HEIAs have proven useful in several ways:

  • as a solid analytical tool -- rapidly assessing issues within this framework can quickly provide evidence-based findings and recommendations to effectively intervene in current policy issues;
  • these Real Cost HEIAs  have proven to be an important resources for health care and other partners in addressing the particular issues at both policy and program levels;
  • they have had some immediate success in contributing to shifts in the particular policies -- for  example, the proposed Toronto budget cuts were significantly softened, the planned CSUMB cuts were reduced, and many municipal councillors and the Toronto Board of Health have opposed a casino in Toronto.  Of course, these analyses were only one part of much wider mobilization that contributed to these changes, but they were arguably an important part.
  • finally, by highlighting concretely how population health, the social determinants of health and health equity need to be built into the development of many kinds of policy, across many spheres of government, these HEIAs can contribute to a reframing of how policy is developed -- and can help move towards really implementing comprehensive Health in All Policies approaches.