21 August 2007

HIA changes in Switzerland

On the 4th July 2007, an agreement was signed between the Department of Economy and Health of the Republic & Canton of Geneva (DES) and the University of Geneva (UNIGE).

This agreement stipulates that the
Health Impact Assessment (HIA) unit of the Directorate of Public Health (DES) is assigned for 3 years to UNIGE, with the possibility of a final transfer at the end of this period. In addition to its main mission (Assistance to the Geneva government in carrying out whichever HIA that it has decided to undertake according to the Health Law), the HIA unit is in charge, among other things, of the development of research and training on HIA, contributing in this manner to turn UNIGE into a Competence Centre in the area of Environmental Health.

The unit is under the hierarchical responsibility of the Director of the new Institute of Environmental Sciences (ISE). The assignment will become effective on 1st September 2007, at the same time ISE becomes operational.

The key HIA contacts are Jean Simos and Nicola Cantoreggi.

They can both be reached at: ueis@unige.ch or nicola.cantoreggi@unige.ch

Information courtesy of a personal email from Jean and Nicola.

19 August 2007

An Important Day for Thailand and HIA

As many of you will be aware, Thailand's first referendum on the draft permanent Thai constitution is being held today, Sunday 19 August 2007. What some fo you may not be aware of however, is that the draft constitution has far-reaching implications for HIA's use in Thailand.

Decharut Sukkumnoed, Director of the Thai Healthy Public Policy Foundation, has provided this translation of the relevant sections of the constitution:

Section 67(2)
"Any projects and activities, which may cause serious impacts on the environment, natural resources, and health, cannot be done without conducting an impact assessment on environment quality and health of population in the local community and organizing a public hearing process for affected people and stakeholders. Moreover, these projects and activities cannot be started without the comments and opinions from independent organizations, which are comprised of environmental and health NGOs, and the representatives from higher education institutes which provide education on environment, natural resources, and health."

Section 67(3)
"The rights of local people to sue against any governmental organizations in order to make them follow the privious principle [i.e. section 67(2)] will be protected by this constitution."

The constitution's provisions for HIA's use follows the Thai National Health Act B.E. 2550 (2007) that was proclaimed on the 9th of March, which allows Thai people the right to demand a HIA be conducted and to participate in the HIA process (more information in this post).

I'm sure we'll all follow developments in Thailand today with considerable interest.

14 August 2007

Asia Pacific HIA Email List: Discussion about HIAs of oil and gas projects

James Edwin recently posted a message to the Asia Pacific HIA Email List:
I need some assistance with health impact assessment methodologies. I would like an identification of existing guidelines, models and/or practices in the area of health impact assessment specific to the oil and gas industry. I would appreciate a list of models, a review of the literature, case studies, practical applications, references, annotated bibliography, etc
This led to a number of very helpful responses, which I've included in the comments for this post. If you are aware of any other materials please include them in a comment.

HIA2007 South East Asia and Oceania HIA Conference Update 2: Draft Program

Draft Program

The HIA2007 conference is being held in Sydney from 7-9 November. A draft conference program has been released [PDF ]. Please note that this program is provisional and may be subject to change.

The conference promises to be a busy event with:
  • 10 plenary addresses,
  • 48 oral presentations,
  • 3 pre-conference training workshops,
  • 2 in-conference workshops,
  • 3 practitoner meetings/forums,
  • 18 posters, and
  • a panel discussion.

Conference Registration

Please download a registration flyer [PDF] for the conference to circulate to your colleagues and contacts. Online registration has opened and can be accessed at http://www.hia2007.com/registration.htm

Numbers for some events, such as the pre-conference workshops, are limited so register soon to avoid disappointment.

11 August 2007

HIA Job: Research Associate Position at Cardiff University

The Welsh Health Impact Assessment Support Unit is advertising a position for a research associate for a project looking at “Involving the Public in Health Impact Assessment: An evaluation of current practice”. Details available here.

7 August 2007

Wacky HIAs: HIAs of free newspapers and public spitting

I'd love to someone to do a HIA on free newspapers.

In London, UK we now have at least four newspapers everyday that are given away at tube stations, railway stations and major bus stops. We have the Metro, the London Paper, London Lite and the City AM.

From a sustainability perspective this is unsupportable as all that paper is junked mostly in regular bins and not recycled. Worse from a public health and environmental perspective the is a huge amount of litter and hazard created by people throwing these papers in streets and inside stations.

And yet, free newspapers through their provision of news, ideas, information, entertainment and gossip do generate some form of social capital, social inclusion and civic engagement.

The question therefore is how to keep the positives and reduce the negatives?

I'd also love someone to do a HIA on public spitting. Everyday as I commute into central London I see spit and people spitting. On the streets, inside tube stations, on the platforms and on buses.

Okay, so public spitting in strict public health terms probably isn't so bad in a country like the UK, where infectious disease levels are low and yet there are social, civic and cultural effects from this. Spitting in public shows a disregard both for public spaces and for the people who use them. Or maybe I'm just getting old and taking things too seriously.

What do you think of my ideas? What novel and wacky HIAs would you like to carry out, or have carried out, if you had the chance?

3 August 2007

UK ePetition on HIA

The United Kingdom Office of the Prime Minister has an online petition proposing that:
... the Prime Minister to initiate legislation that will make a health impact assessment (HIA) an explicit requirement for all proposals to augment UK roads infrastructure"
Edit: Comments on the petition from its initiator after the jump.

This response is by John Butler

I was indeed the one who posted the HIA petition yesterday. In North Wales (Gogledd Cymru - hence the affectionate "gogs"), where I live, officials at Transport Wales are planning a massive "Improvement", to 7-11 lane motorway standards of the modest A494/A55 dual carriage way highway that runs "across the top of Wales". If ever built, with parallel service roads, it would be up to 13 lanes wide and one of the widest roads in Britain!

Officials at Transport Wales/Welsh Assembly Government are saying that our economy will collapse if the road is not built and they are designing it to carry double the current number of vehicles to 130,000 cars and trucks each day! The fact that it passses through some of the most beautiful parts of The Principality, considered up to now to be a tranquil, rural gem seems to have escaped them.

Thousands of North Wales folk are saying that they don't want or need this massive, polluting construction - and have been building a case to oppose it for the past 18 months. You can read about some aspects (including a specially composed "anthem" now viewable on YouTube!) at our website.

The official documents produced by the proposers have never made any attempt to properly provide for an appraisal of Impacts on Human Health. Their justification for this is that since there is currently no statutory requirement for one there won't be one. Thats what prompted me to initiate the e-petition to our Prime Minister!

I have two small grandchildren. They are likely to attend schools very close to the proposed widened roads so, on their behalf, I decided to persue this startling omission by Transport Wales and also my local county authority who run the schools.

The need (absolute necessity!!) for a HIA for any scheme of this nature, was inspired by the Californian "Gauderman Survey" of early 2007. With encouragement from UK's emminent imunotoxicalogy clinician, Royal Commissioner Profesor Stephen Holgate, I arranged several meetings of concerned residents and local politicians with senior environmental officials at my Local County Hall (Flintshire County Council). It transpires that amongst the undoubted specialists they assembled to impress us, nobody has any clinical qualifications or competence - neither had they thought fit to confer with those who have.

I have now formally advised the Chief Executive of FCC that, if ever my grandchildren suffer future health problems as a result of their inaction now in not effecting an HIA, I will take legal against them. There is now a lot of behind-the-scenes buck-passing going on, especially as they are aware that I am preparing to get 3000 concerned parents to consider registering with me NOW for a "Class-Action" at some future date.

I believe transport Wales fears that if the project and all roadworks they have in the pipeline were to be subject to appraisal for Health Impacts using the criteria that recent research advocates, it would mark the end of ALL large scale road projects throughout Wales - and the UK......

Any help readers of the blog can render to those ordinary folk who oppose the injustice of this and who have natural concerns for those most vulnerable in Wales (UK) would be appreciated.

All North Wales Assembly Members and our local Parliamentary MP, Mark Tami MP have queried with incredulity the omission of a HIA and are now aware of the obfuscation that is taking place in the highest levels of our civil administration. This must never happen again!

I am urging those Assembly Members who have previously expressed support to immediately initiate a Bill in the Assembly that would make it a prerequisite for all future Welsh highway works of this type. The e-petition is simply another way to raise awareness of common concerns.

As a result of a concerted action by orinary folk to register their concerns, on 11 September 2007, there will be a Public Inquiry into all aspects of the current proposals. It is likely to be a landmark event in future considerations for HIAs. Can you help in any way?

Many thanks for your interest. Please recruit as much interest and additions to the petition as possible. Dont forget to check out the website. If you want to hear the campaign song it's on Youtube.

John Butler

NB: I can't necessarily vouch for the petition or its appropriateness within the UK regulatory or legislative context - Ben