The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a national initiative designed to promote the use of health impact assessments (HIAs) as a decision-making tool for policymakers. HIAs use a flexible, data-driven approach that identifies the health consequences of new policies and develops practical strategies to enhance their health benefits and minimize adverse effects. Through the use of public health research and risk analysis, HIAs can help researchers and policy-makers to reduce population-based harms and maximize the benefits of a given project.
HIAs have been used extensively in health sectors domestically and abroad. The effectiveness of these evaluations has encouraged researchers to determine whether HIAs might be a viable tool in non-health sectors such as environment and energy, transportation, agriculture, and waste disposal and recycling to enhance the public’s health and well-being.
With support from the Health Impact Project, Principal Investigator James G Hodge Jr. and PHLPP colleagues seek to address how existing laws may facilitate the use of HIAs in non-health sectors through extensive legal and policy research focused on a specific sample of federal, tribal, state, and local laws. Thirty-six jurisdictions have been selected for legal research based on their geographic, political, ethnic, and population-based diversity, as well as the electronic availability of their laws.
In Phase I of the project, the research team determined initial action steps and finalize the jurisdictions to be studied with input from the Health Impact Project. Systematic research of laws in the selected jurisdictions was conducted in Phase II to determine whether such laws require HIAs, facilitate HIAs, or prohibit HIAs in specific non-health sectors. As part of Phase III of the project, the team’s research was compiled into an authoritative master table outlining specific areas where HIA’s may be employed. In the final Phase IV, the team analyzed and interpreted research results, generated key legal themes, and proposed practical uses for HIAs in non-health sectors to further the public’s health and safety. The final product of this project is published by the Health Impact Project in the report entitled Legal Review Concerning the Use of Health Impact Assessments in Non-health Sectors.