Health Impact Assessment (HIA)

Why use HIA?

International policies and regulations for HIA

Several international policies and regulations make provisions for HIA or recommend its use, such as:

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment
    Health effects are often poorly assessed within Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), or not at all. The establishment of a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Protocol – to supplement the UNECE Convention on EIA - has addressed this problem. In Kiev, in May 2003, governments of 35 European United Nations members signed the SEA protocol, whose provisions place special emphasis on human health, going beyond existing legislation. This reflects the political will of the governments, and the technical support of the health sector including WHO. The protocol also recommends that SEA be undertaken early enough in the decision-making process of proposals for environmental and health issues to be considered as part of a wider sustainability agenda. More information on this protocol.

  • Article 152 of the Amsterdam Treaty
    The Treaty calls for the European Union (EU) to examine the possible impact of major policies on health. The treaty states that "A high level of health protection shall be ensured in connection with the formulation and implementation of all Community policies and all Community measures". The European Commission's Health Strategy proposal states that policies must ensure that public health aspects be considered in all EU decisions and actions, therefore health impact assessments should be conducted.

  • Environmental Impact Assessment
    Many countries have statutory requirements for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be undertaken on every important project. The EU directive on EIA was introduced in 1985 and amended in 1997 and 2003. Country-specific links for environmental and strategic impact assessments can be found at the Impact Assessment Research Centre at the University of Manchester or the International Association for Impact Assessment. Unfortunately, an EIA does not typically include an assessment of the health effects, and when it does, it may be narrowly focused and only quantitative in nature.

  • EU Strategic Environmental Directive
    The European Commission began negotiations for a directive on the environmental assessment of plans and programmes in 1996. Several amendments to the proposal were made, leading to the SEA Directive being adopted by the European Council on 5 June 2001. The purpose of the SEA-Directive is to ensure that environmental consequences of certain plans and programmes are identified and assessed during their preparation and before their adoption. Member states were required to introduce the directive into their own legislation by 27 June 2004.

  • Health21 – Health for all
    The 51 countries comprising the WHO European Region have a common policy framework for health development, which outlines strategies to transform national policies into practical operational programmes at the local level. After consultations with Member States and several important organizations in the Region, four main strategies for action were chosen to ensure that scientific, economic, social and political sustainability drive the implementation of Health21. The first is that "multisectoral strategies tackle the determinants of health, taking into account physical, economic, social, cultural and gender perspectives and ensuring the use of health impact assessment".

  • Environmental Health Conferences
    The 3rd ministerial conference on environmental health, held in London in 1999, recognized access to information, public participation and access to justice in environment and health as important issues. Several countries supported the idea of a protocol on strategic environment and health impact assessment, and the theme was submitted to the following environment and health conference in Budapest, in 2004.

  • Libreville Declaration
    In 2008, the Libreville Declaration on Health and Environment in Africa encouraged governments to integrate health and the environment within public policies, poverty reduction strategies and national development plans. The implementation of health and environment intersectoral programmes at all levels is considered to be one of the decisive factors that may lead to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.