Health Impact Assessment, HIA

Health Impact Assessment, HIA

The National Health Commission Office (NHCO) has defined Health Impact Assessment, HIA as predicting the potential impacts of policies, plans, and projects that affect public health in negative, positive and equitable ways by applying a variety of tools and appropriate participatory processes to assist in supporting relevant mechanisms for making decisions that are equitable and beneficial to public health both in the short and long term.

Conducting health impact assessment (HIA) is for the purpose of studying the impact of different projects and policies and to make proposals for protecting the public against health risks and threats occurring in local communities. It places importance on considering health impacts and addressing potential health impacts on people and taking comprehensive preventive measures by assessing the health impact from such management. Impact studies are conducted in all projects, large or small, which is the application of HIA under the Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992) such as impact studies on rice mills, dormitory business, swine farming and food festival business etc.

People don’t suffer from diseases or disabilities when living in healthy environments and communities adopting the standards of physical, mental and social integrity as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Health Act B.E.2550 (A.D. 2007).

Health determinants can be identified in 12 key determinants as follows: 1) income and social status, 2) social support networks, 3) education and literacy, 4) employment and working conditions, 5) social environments, 6) physical environments, 7) personal health practices and coping skills, 8) healthy child development, 9) biological and genetic endowment, 10) health services, 11) gender, and 12) culture. Therefore, if a local activity, operation, project, plan, or local policy is initiated, it has the potential to change any of these 12 health determinants either negatively or positively.

HIA is divided into 3 phases: 1) preparation phase, 2) health impact assessment phase, and 3) HIA data and result utilization phase as given below:
1) Preparatory phase is to assign the right responsible person to the job by appointing HAI working team with an action plan that clearly identifies the responsible persons and the health impact assessment phase.
2) The health impact assessment phase involves screening and setting HAI targets, analyzing local environmental status, scoping outcomes, listening to opinions, defining scope of work in designing impact study methods, combining analysis into impact assessment, analyzing impact severity data, prioritizing and proposing preventive measures, corrective or environmental health promotion, holding consultation with stakeholders, jointly determining preventive measures or measures to promote health and environmental health, summarizing information and proposals from stakeholders for further use.
3) Utilization of HIA data and results by presenting the information and measures to decision-makers. There are prevention and resolution of problems or the promotion of health and environmental health with implementation plan, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

The benefits of HIA utilization are for obtaining evidence about community impacts, engaging with community, exchanging knowledge among local people and educating the public about health risk factors. The HIA process provides opportunities for collaborative information gathering and encourages participation of all sectors in providing opinions and suggestions on the implementation of various activities and to make decisions as carefully and fairly as possible.

Proposals for community or local development come from public participation and are designed for preventing and solving environmental health problems in the area. Also, the feasibility and management of adverse impacts on lifestyle health practices, basic resources, and development goals considered.
Furthermore, HIA provides for corrective plans or preventive measures to prevent potential impacts by avoiding actions that causes adverse impacts from changing economic conditions and loss of income and considers this when formulating local development plans or action plans for driving public policy for health and wellbeing.

By Assistant Professor Dr. Ayanyapak Pitakpong,
Chairman of Bachelor of Science Program in Environmental Health,
School of Public Health, University of Phayao


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