Is the increasing policy use of Impact Assessment in Europe likely to undermine efforts to achieve healthy public policy?
- 1School for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
- 2Centre for International Public Health Policy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
- 3London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
- Correspondence to Katherine Smith, School for Health, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK;
- Accepted 2 September 2009
European policymakers have recently become increasingly committed to using Impact Assessment (IA) to inform policy decisions. Welcoming this development, the public health community has not yet paid sufficient attention to conceptual concerns about IA or to corporate efforts to shape the way in which IA is used. This essay is a thematic analysis of literature concerning IA and associated tools and a related assessment of the European Union's (EU) new ‘integrated’ IA tool. Eight key concerns regarding IA are identified from the literature, many of which relate to the potential for undue corporate influence. Assessment of the EU's IA tool suggests that many of these concerns are valid. The findings raise crucial questions about the role of IA in public policy. By focusing mainly on the impact on the economy and business environment, the EU's current approach to IA may undermine healthy public policy. Those interested in public health need to acknowledge and respond to the problems associated with IA and evaluate the effects of ‘integrated’ IA tools on policy decisions affecting public health.
- Health Impact Assessment
- healthy policy
- policy development
- public health Europe, public health policy
Linked articles 100370
Funding This work was supported by the Smoke Free Partnership (SFP) through a CR-UK grant (CR-UK is one of the SFP partners (www.cancerresearchuk.org), the others being the European Respiratory Society (www.ersnet.org), and the Institut National du Cancer (www.e-cancer.fr). The funders had no influence on the research design, data collection, data interpretation or the writing of this article. AG is supported by a Health Foundation Clinician Scientist Award. GF is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the United States National Institutes of Health [grant number: 2 R01 CA091021-05].
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.