© World Health Organization 2000

Intersectoral decision-making skills in support of health impact assessment of development projects: final report on the development of a course adressing health opportunities in water resources development

Executive summary

The aim was to develop a course for mid-level officials from a range of ministries to familiarise them with Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in the planning of Water Resources Development. This type of capacity building, it was hoped, would influence funding agencies, project proponents, consultants, and construction as well as project managers to pay due attention to health hazards and health opportunities in such projects. It was also anticipated that participants from different ministries working together in small groups would foster the development of skills in intersectoral collaboration.

Critical evaluation of the first course (Zimbabwe, 1992) indicated that problem-based learning should replace the more conventional, teacher-centred teaching. In addition, emphasis on ability to carry out HIAs was to be changed to ability to set the Terms of Reference for HIA, critically appraise HIA reports from consultants and make reasoned recommendations.

The subsequent four courses (Ghana, 1994; Tanzania, 1995; Honduras, 1996; India, 1997) concentrated on progressively refining the process for developing competencies in critically reviewing reports and documents, presenting reasoned recommendations orally and in writing, and skills in intersectoral collaboration. The content was also revised and simplified, together with an iterative endeavour to make the educational material of the course progressively more generic.Change of location was also designed to explore implications of the course in different cultures and administrative environments.

This has resulted in the production and validation of Task Guides and Guides for Course Organisers, Tutors and Local Resource Persons, so that the course can be implemented in any country without assistance from expatriate consultants.

The 18-day course consists of brief morning and afternoon plenary discussion sessions, followed by task-based learning, with participants from different ministries working together in small, mixed groups.

Each group undertakes six Tasks:

These Tasks are carried out in the context of a real development project. For this purpose, each group is provided with a complete set of project documents. Each Task leads to the production of a written report and its oral presentation.

Two days are devoted to field visits, each closely linked to one of the Tasks.

A light-hearted debate on “Intersectoral Collaboration is Undesirable and Impracticable” is organised by the participants in the middle of the course, in order to boost morale in what is a lengthy and demanding course.

Special attention is devoted to the creation and maintenance of a facilitating educational environment. The participants are valued as colleagues who contribute their expertise and experience to the completion of their group’s tasks. There are no lectures, so that the participants have to rely on each other for information, use the books given to them, and use the course reference library. The student-centred, active learning is supported by a “non-expert tutor” with each group and by local resource persons, who can be consulted and who provide constructive feedback during the oral presentations.

Download the report of the course

Inter-sectoral decision-making skills in support of health impact assessment of development projects [pdf 696kb]

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