27 June 2006

Health Impact Assessment Wikis

Wikis are website that allow any user to update and edit the information they contain. The biggest and best known wiki is Wikipedia, an ambitious free web-based encyclopedia project with over 1.2 billion articles in English.

Of interest to HIA practtioners are the HIA Wiki, which was started by Salim Vohra, and the HIA page on Wikipedia. You can use these not only as a source information but also as a vehicle for updating others on HIA-related developments.

A number of people have expressed concerns about wikis' unmoderated nature. I think that when using a wiki it's important to view the page history to assess if what you're reading is the result of informed and constructive contributions. The other thing to keep in mind is that even with traditional mediums such as books and journals the editorial and peer-review processes aren't rock-solid guarantees of quality. Critical appraisal has always been important.

Please take a look at both wikis. I'd be interested in your impressions of them.

23 June 2006

Should population health studies be called HIAs?

I was reading through a report in today's Courier Mail (Brisbane, Australia) about an industrial estate in Queensland that's causing a bit of controversy. The local community has been concerned about the health impacts of a chemical fire that occurred in one of the estate's factories nine months ago, and the ongoing risks the industrial estate poses for their health.

In the article the Premier is reported as saying that a HIA will be undertaken as part of his plan for the site. The article isn't entirely clear about what the HIA will be done on - the impact of the fire nine months ago or the possible health impacts of relocating the four businesses identified by the government as being unsuitable for the industrial area. I get the impression that it's the former because it's described as "a full health impact assessment and full scientific study conducted with independent consultants".

This made me wonder, should this sort of activity be called HIA?

My gut response is that it shouldn't. It doesn't follow the steps of HIA and it doesn't necessarily involve looking at the determinants of health (instead often focusing on measuring health outcomes). This issue has come up in the past, with people calling a variety of population health-related research activities health impact assessment (see Kemm 2003, PDF 38Kb - particularly the discussion of retrospective and concurrent HIA).

What do you think about these sort of studies being called HIAs?

Kemm J. Perspectives on Health Impact Assessment, Bulletin of the World Health Organization 81(6):387. Available from http://www.who.int/entity/bulletin/volumes/81/6/kemm.pdf

14 June 2006

New HIA Guidance from Ireland

The Institute for Public Health in Ireland has produced an interesting set of guidance on HIA. I like the way there are a number of case studies included in the appendices, helping to ground the guidance in the real-world experience of HIA.

What's your take on the publication?

13 June 2006

Advancing HIA during the Finnish EU Presidency

I came across an interesting interview with Pekka Puska, head of the Finnish National Public Health Unit about the "health in all policies" goal they're working towards during the Finnish EU Presidency.

Tapani Kauppinen and Kirsi Nelimarkka (pictured with their poster on human impact assessment) mentioned at the IAIA Conference that STAKES is also going to be undertaking work to progress HIA at the policy level during the presidency.

It will be interesting to see how things progress.