Using economic valuation methods for environment and health assessment

Integrating impact assessment and economic valuation

The impacts of policies on the environment, health and human well-being cannot always be quantified or valued in terms of money or numbers. In many developing countries basic environment and health data may be missing or incomplete, making quantitative assessment a difficult task from the outset. Social values and perceptions of risk and well-being also influence the manner in which many stakeholders assess the potential impacts of a policy.

In the HELI process, UNEP and WHO highlight the importance of integrating disciplines and approaches on a number of levels:

  • linked assessment of policies’ impacts on health and ecosystems, and linkage of tools for impact assessment and economic analysis;
  • reference to the social sciences as integral to an analysis of environment and health impacts, alongside the physical sciences and economic disciplines. This requires the use of impact assessment methods that are inclusive and reflective, not only of expert opinion but also of a broad, validating dialogue among politicians, the public and experts;
  • integrated use of environment and health data for policy assessment, to optimize the present day use of existing evidence, alongside long-term improvements in monitoring, collection and reporting of indicators.

Finally, the integration of ecosystem approaches to environment and health in mainstream policy-making requires not only the linkage of health and environment in the assessment process, resourceful use of evidence, and judicious use of qualitative and quantitative tools – but also the appropriate enabling conditions. Such conditions are created when there are effective legal and civil society institutions and frameworks to support policy implementation. In many developing countries such supportive legal and social institutions may be weak, despite the deeply felt desire for change that exists at the grass roots and, indeed, among many policy-makers. Strengthening such institutions is a challenge that needs to be addressed jointly by country-level policy-makers, international institutions and civil society.