29 June 2007

New HIA Listserv: Asia Pacific Health Impact Assessment Email List

A meeting of HIA practitioners from across the Asia Pacific region was held during the recent International Association for Impact Assessment conference in Seoul. It was decided during the meeting that there was a need for an email discussion list to facilitate information exchange across the region.

I have established an Asia Pacific HIA Email List. The list currently has over 120 subscribers from 18 countries. If you would like to join the list please send an email to majordomo@explode.unsw.edu.au with "subscribe hia-seao" as the body of the email (further details below).

This email list is intended for practitioners and those with an interest in health impact assessment from across the Asia Pacific region.

To provide an mechanisms for information exchange and networking across the Asia Pacific region.

To subscribe
Send an email to majordomo@explode.unsw.edu.au with "subscribe hia-seao"as the body of the email.

To unsubscribe
Send an email to majordomo@explode.unsw.edu.au with "unsubscribe hia-seao"as the body of the email.

To send an email to the list
Send your email to hia-seao@explode.unsw.edu.au
Attachments up to 1 Mb are permitted, though not encouraged. Links to files hosted on the web are preferred.

28 June 2007

Deadline Extended: Abstracts for HIA2007 South East Asia and Oceania Health Impact Assessment Conference

The deadline for submission of abstracts for the HIA2007 South East Asia and Oceania Health Impact Assessment Conference has been extended until Monday 2 July 2007. Abstracts can be submitted online at www.hia2007.com and are invited under the following themes:
  • Health Impact Assessment in Practice
  • Health, Community Wellbeing and Sustainability
  • Creating Environments for Health
  • Liveable Urban Communities
  • Working with Other Sectors
The conference is being held in Sydney, Australia from 7-9 November 2007. Further information is available from http://www.hia2007.com

25 June 2007

South East Asian Regional Training Course on HIA

By Suphakij Nuntavorakarn and Nuntana Sabrum, Thai Healthy Public Policy Foundation

The Thai Health Systems Research Institute recently held an “HIA Interactive Training Course: A Learning Tool for Healthy Community and Society” in Khon Kaen province of Thailand.

The five-day training course was carried out during 15th to 19th October 2006 through a diversity of processes such as lectures, group work, open discussion and field visits in order to strengthen essential HIA skills and knowledge and to create framework for collaborative research and networking within Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Twelve regional and nineteen local health experts and practitioners attended the event. The regional participants were from Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Australia. Suggestions and ideas shared during the training have led to further HIA development in the region including the development of HIA training manual for developing countries, expert exchange and technical visits. One of the concrete outcomes is that more HIA work has been produced by the new faces from Mekong River Basin and will be presented in the upcoming international events such as the IAIA07 conference in South Korea and HIA2007 conference in Australia.

The training and subsequent activities are part of the “HIA Development for Developing Countries Project” supported by Thai-Health Global Linkage Initiative Program (T-GLIP), which is funded through the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. The need for the project arose from an increasing awareness of trans-boundary health impacts and the need to prevent and manage them through regional collaboration.

Copies of the training manual developed by the Healthy Public Policy Foundation are now available. Forfm more information contact Wipawa Chuenchit.

23 June 2007

Planning and Health: Findings from the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution

by Andrew Buroni, RPS Group

The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) is an independent body established to advise the Queen, the Government, Parliament and the public on environmental issues.

The Commission's advice is mainly in the form of reports, of which their most recent is on the Urban Environment. In this report the RCEP acknowledges current shortcomings in the planning system and recommends that the UK government and devolved administrations develop a statutory framework for including Health Impact Assessments in the planning process.

This article provides a summary of the RCEP report, detailing the recommendations to Government and future HIA planning requirements.

Planning and Health
The planning system offers an important opportunity for a more coherent effort to develop cities and improve the health and wellbeing of urban inhabitants.
Evidence suggests that planning can not only be applied to tackle and offset many of the adverse health effects of an urban environment, but can also be applied to address and prevent many of today’s significant physical, mental and social health issues.

The mode of health effect is complex and represents a mixture of physical influences such as the removal of environmental risks, social influences brought about through improved connectivity and support through to behavioral responses from improved perceptions of the environment.

Potential outcomes from more health conscientious planning therefore reflect real opportunities to contribute in reducing cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, obesity, diabetes, road traffic accidents, antisocial behavior and crime and foster improved self-rated health, wellbeing and ultimately healthier communities.
The ethical and financial benefits of preventative health measures over treatment are key to Government policy represented through the White Paper, ‘Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation’ and supported by the Department of Health, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence and regional Health Authorities.

However, to date, consideration of health and wellbeing has had little influence in urban design and planning and the present planning system is still unable to adequately deal with complex public health issues.

Planning applications for large-scale developments often require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). These assessments can include data on environmental problems like air pollution that can cause health effects, but while they may predict environmental emissions from future developments to compare with relevant standards, they do not always look at health impacts in terms of a population’s vulnerability and exposure to health risks.

EIAs and planning applications therefore tend to not consider health and wellbeing issues in a systematic manner do not recognise the complex interrelations between social and environmental factors and rarely identify measures to enhance health benefits.

Recognition of the planning systems failure to adequately address health is not new. The RCEP’s previous report on Environmental Planning, highlighted the general issues and recommended the Government integrate processes such as Health Impact Assessment (HIA) within EIA back in 2002.

In its response, the government recognised the benefits of HIA, but stated that it was “not persuaded that detailed Health Impact Assessments, which require different expertise and methodologies, should form an integral part of Environmental Impact Assessment at individual project level”.

However, during the most recent RCEP study, the Department of Health supported the inclusion of HIA within the EIA process as the best means of considering health issues in the planning process, and the RCEP strongly concur.
The RCEP therefore reinforces its recommendation that Health Impact Assessments be incorporated explicitly in Sustainability Appraisals, Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments.

In order to implement this, the RCEP further recommend that the UK government and devolved administrations develop a statutory framework for including Health Impact Assessments in the planning process.

Future HIA Requirement in the Planning Process
The RCEP’s study reinforces the consensus view of UK health organisations and Local Government in that a formal requirement to assess the potential health effects of development is long overdue.

In the absence of leadership from Government and a lack of a formal requirement to conduct HIA, Local and Regional Government are developing their own initiatives to ensure that health is addressed in the planning process.
  • In London, the Greater London Authority Act (1999) places a duty on the Greater London Authority (GLA) to promote the health of Londoners and to take into account the effect of its policies on health and inequality. Supporting the GLA Act, the Mayor appointed the London Health Commission to drive health improvement in priority areas across London, to investigate specific health issues if it wishes and to drive the practice of HIA across London. Complementing the GLA Act, the Mayor of London has recently released Best Practice Guidance setting out how health inequalities can be tackled through more informed planning, policies and proposals subject to HIA.
    The Welsh Assembly have recently published a Draft Interim Planning Policy Statement on Planning, Health and Well-being, forming the first planning requirement for HIA in the UK.
  • The Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency are developing guidance to advise health authorities on how to integrate health into Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
  • Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities are becoming more involved in the planning process and specifically requesting HIA.
  • Developers are voluntarily commissioning HIA to identify potential health risks, to facilitate health improvements and avoid often-costly remediation.
In light of the growing demand and clear benefits of HIA, the RCEP recommendation is likely to be the precursor for the development of the first UK statutory requirement to conduct HIA.

Any further delay by Government may be perceived as a deliberate attempt to avoid tackling the often-emotive topic of health.

14 June 2007

New Thai National Health Act: Participatory HIA Enshrined in Law

The Thai National Health Act B.E. 2550 (2007) was recently approved and entered into force on 19th of March. The ambitious legislation includes several sections on HIA, which cover the rights of Thai people to demand a HIA be conducted and to participate in HIA process, as well requiring the development of guidelines and procedures for HIA to be developed by the newly established National Health Committee.

According to the Act, HIA is designed to be a “social learning process”, which has been developed so that all stakeholders in society can be involved in examining the health impacts of policies, projects or activities that have already affected or may affect groups of people. This social learning process involves identifying and supporting the most appropriate alternative in public decision-making processes with the goal of protecting and promoting the health of all people in Thai society.
For more information on the Act email suphakijn@yahoo.com

This post was written by Suphakij Nuntavorakarn from the Thai Healthy Public Policy Foundation and originally appeared in the International Association for Impact Assessment's HIA Quarterly.