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Use of health impact assessment in incorporating health considerations in decision making
  1. Clare Davenport1,
  2. Jonathan Mathers2,
  3. Jayne Parry2
  1. 1Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Health Impact Assessment Research Unit, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrJ Mathers
 Health Impact Assessment Research Unit, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; matherjm{at}


Study aim: The aim of this project is to identify from a range of sources the factors associated with the success of a health impact assessment (HIA) in integrating health considerations into the final decision and implementation of a planned policy, programme, or project.

Design: Three methods were adopted: (a) a review of HIA case studies; (b) a review of commentaries, reviews and discussion papers relating to HIA and decision making; and (c) an email survey of a purposive sample of HIA academics, HIA practitioners, and policymakers. Information was captured on the following characteristics: information on the year undertaken; geopolitical level; setting; sector; HIA type; methods and techniques used; identification of assessors.

Main results: Two groups of factors were identified relating to the decision making environment and to the technical conduct of the HIA. With regard to the environment, striking a balance between decision maker ownership and HIA credibility; organisational, statutory and policy commitment to HIA, and the provision of realistic, non-controversial recommendations were cited as enablers to the integration of HIA findings into the decision making process. Barriers included a lack of knowledge of the policymaking environment by those conducting HIA. Regarding factors relating to the conduct of the HIA: use of a consistent methodological approach; inclusion of empirical evidence on health impacts; timing of the HIA congruent with the decision making process; involvement of expert HIA assessors; and shaping of recommendations to reflect organisational priorities were cited as enablers while lack of a standardised methodology; lack of resources and use of jargon were cited as barriers.

Conclusions: The findings emphasise the importance of considering the politico-administrative environment in which HIA operates. The extent to which HIA fits the requirements of organisations and decision makers may be as important as the technical methods adopted to undertake it.

  • HIA, health impact assessment
  • PPP, policy, programme, or project
  • health impact assessment
  • review
  • decision making

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  • Funding: this project was financially supported by the World Health Organisation’s Health and Environmental Linkages Initiative (HELI) programme.

  • Competeting interests: none declared.

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