Health Impact Assessment (HIA)

Using evidence within HIA


Generating and analysing new evidence - through surveys, interviews, primary research, and workshops etc.

Most HIAs generate new evidence that can be used in the appraisal stage. For example, even rapid HIAs often hold a workshop to gather views and evidence of stakeholders.

Generating evidence requires the setting of research questions, and this in turn influences decisions about which research methods to use. Other factors to consider are the resources and skills, and timeframe available. The golden rule in such work is not to collect data that will not be used, as this wastes time and raises expectations among participants. Methods chosen should be able to capture the reality of the situation, with all of its uncontrollable variables and this normally requires the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Ask for support

Before starting such work however, enlisting the help and support of a person with research skills is highly recommended. It is important to realise that while many of these methods may appear simple to carry out, this is masked by the preparation required for the research to go well.

Commonly used research methods

  • Using current data collection systems. Relevant data may be routinely collected in surveys, monitoring of trends and needs assessments – check government departments, local healthcare providers, local and regional councils, universities, etc
  • Workshops. This is a commonly used method in HIA to bring together a large number of stakeholders to discuss the proposal, discuss evidence of impact, and generate possible solutions.
  • Focus groups. A qualitative method for gathering detailed information from a small group of people. A person to guide the group discussion is required. This approach provides large amounts of practical evidence about people’s perceptions and experiences and is often used in HIA to gather community and/or expert views on a topic.
  • In-depth individual interviews. A qualitative method for gathering detailed information from one or two people at a time. This approach provides large amounts of practical evidence about people’s perceptions and experiences and is often used in HIA to gather community and/or expert views on a topic.
  • Questionnaires/surveys. Using written, phone, web or computer based questionnaires can be useful to gather both quantitative and qualitative information. Question design and sampling are important issues to get right. This approach often allows a broader reach across the population.
  • Textual/documentary analysis. Existing documents often contain considerable evidence. These can include non-traditional sources such as meeting minutes and emails.
  • Diary/log books. Keep a diary or set up a log book to track events/ experiences as they happen.
  • Physiological tests. In large studies, tests on people’s physiological reaction can be undertaken. For example, in the Schipol Airport HIA in the Netherlands, researchers included field studies about the impact of plane noise on residents’ sleep.
  • Observation. A common method used to collect information about how areas are used and how people behave.
  • Image-based evidence. Photography and video evidence can be used to collect evidence about how areas are used and how people behave.
  • Case studies. Carrying out in-depth study of an individual, a situation, an organisation, or a place. This approach uses many of the above methods to gather detailed information about one topic.

With each of the methods outlined above, different types of analysis can be carried out. It is important to involve people with research skills in the analysis process to ensure that the conclusions drawn are valid. Considering the skills available within your team for analysis will help decisions on what research methods should be used, and what questions can/should be asked.

Share