The Network has received a number of requests from local organizations and individuals asking for assistance in utilizing legal or policy tools to promote a public health project within their community. One such recent request was from a school district that is collaborating with community partners to establish a community school/food warehouse community. The project’s leaders were specifically interested in whether a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) would be relevant to their project, what benefits it could provide and how to organize and facilitate the completion of such an assessment.
The Network responded with a number of resources on HIAs, which are assessments carried out on the potential effects of the implementation of a project, policy or regulation on the surrounding community’s health. They are often used to analyze the complex, population-wide health impacts of initiatives in areas not typically considered to fall within the public health sphere such as transportation, urban planning and agriculture. The Network referred the requestors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online resources on HIAs as well as the Health Impact Project, which offers detailed information on the HIA process and case studies from around the country online. The Network also suggested that project leaders view the Network webinar on HIAs, which provides a basic overview of their use as well as a discussion of the legal authority authorizing, supporting or prohibiting HIAs. After the requestors had reviewed a number of materials the Network conducted a teleconference with several of the project’s leaders to provide further guidance, facilitate discussion and answer specific questions about how best to utilize the HIA process to guide decision-making and promote their goals.