J Epidemiol Community Health 57:11-16 doi:10.1136/jech.57.1.11
  • Public health policy and practice

Health impact assessment of housing improvements: incorporating research evidence

  1. H Thomson1,
  2. M Petticrew1,
  3. M Douglas2
  1. 1MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Public Health, Lothian Health Board, Deaconess House, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Ms H Thomson, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK;
  • Accepted 2 May 2002


Background: Health impact assessment (HIA) has been widely recommended for future social policies and investment, such as housing improvement. However, concerns have been raised about the utility and predictive value of an HIA. Use of existing research data would add more weight to forecasts by an HIA.

Methods, results, and conclusions: A recent systematic review of housing intervention studies found a lack of research. The authors recommended that a broader evidence base would be needed to support HIA. In response to consultation with policymakers and HIA practitioners this paper presents a way in which research can be used to inform HIA. Based on the systematic review, the authors have developed a table of synthesised findings indicating the expected health effects of specific housing improvements. The authors also reviewed observational data of housing associated health risks to highlight the key impacts to consider when doing a housing HIA. The findings are presented and the authors discuss how they should be used to inform evidence based housing HIA. In addition to considering the existing research, HIA must consider the local relevance of research. Consultation with local stakeholders also needs to be incorporated to the final assessment. The lack of data and the difficulties in gathering and reviewing data mean that not all HIAs will be able to be informed by research evidence. Well conducted prospective validation of HIAs would contribute to the development of healthy housing investment by informing future housing HIA.


  • Funding: HT and MP are funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Department of Health. MD is funded by Lothian NHS Board. Mark Petticrew is a member of the ESRC Evidence Network.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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