Health Impact Assessment (HIA)

WHO activities in HIA

HIA within topic areas

HIA in the context of water resources development

WHO has been working on the application of HIA to the development of water resources for several years. A number of different products and activities have taken place, including:

Water and Sanitation work plan

The work plan for this area (within the Protection of the Human Environment Directorate) included a component titled, ‘Good Practice, Tools and Support for Technical Cooperation’. This work programme included:

  • A WHO-wide meeting on HIA, with the WHO African Region in the lead
  • Institutionalised PEEM/DBL/Liverpool training course in Africa
  • Updated and harmonized existing impact assessment guidelines

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) Report

In September 1999, WHO and the WCD jointly organized a consultation to prepare a formal input into the work of the Commission. This input, Human Health and Dams focused on three issues: equity, economics and sustainability. It drew attention to the health benefits of dams for some groups and to the need of health protection for other, vulnerable groups.

The WCD report includes a special section documenting the spread of vector-borne diseases (malaria, schistosomiasis), the health consequences of toxic blooms in euthrophied reservoirs, pollution and food safety, malnutrition and psychosocial disorders related to dam construction and operation. Under Strategic Priority 5, within the first policy principle, HIA is singled out as a separate item in a comprehensive impact assessment approach. This recognises that health needs to be given a separate profile if it is to be considered in a cross-cutting manner, rather than as a bullet point on an environmental assessment checklist.

HIA training courses

health opportunities in development cover

Previous work on the topic of water resources development focused on a training course for government officials on HIA in Africa. It was also hoped to foster attitudes for intersectoral working by bringing together people from different government departments. There was particular emphasis on the ability to set out the terms of reference for HIA, critically appraise HIA reports from consultants and make reasoned recommendations, rather than the ability to carry out an HIA.

The training programme ran from 1988 – 1998, and was undertaken in Zimbabwe (1992), Ghana (1994), Tanzania (1995), Honduras (1996), and India (1997).

The full report "Health Opportunities in Development: Course Manual on Developing Intersectoral Decision-making Skills in Support of Health Impact Assessment" is available for purchase.