Health Impact Assessment

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Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a process that identifies how a project, policy or program might influence the health of a population. HIA looks for both potential beneficial health effects as well as potential adverse impacts. The purpose is to produce evidence-based recommendations that enhance the health benefits of the project and mitigate potential harms. 

Habitat has been leading HIAs since 2006. We are one of the few companies in the world that credibly offers these services. We have completed HIAs for public policy, for land use and built environment plans, and for a wide range of resource development projects including oil and gas, mining, sustainable energy projects including wind energy and carbon capture and storage, and linear developments such as pipelines and transmission lines.

Our clients have included project proponents, governments and community groups, both across Canada and internationally, and we have undertaken HIAs both as a stand-alone effort and as part of EIA processes. 

Our HIAs employ a broad definition of health and focuses on the full range of potential health outcomes, including:

  • Exposure to contaminants
  • Chronic conditions
  • Infectious diseases
  • Food security, diet and nutrition
  • Stress and mental wellbeing
  • Public safety (e.g. traffic-related injuries)
  • Health effects related to socio-economic changes (e.g., employment, income)
  • Indigenous health issues
  • Health care service provision
  • And other issues deemed important for a particular community

Our assessments identify potential health co-benefits as well as potential adverse health effects, and also discuss the distribution of effects in vulnerable sub-populations.

Our drive for high standards in HIA has also enabled us to become recognized international leaders in the field – our team has helped develop international practice standards, co-founded the professional association of HIA practitioners, and jointly authored a textbook on HIA.

HIA Best Practice

We wrote the book.

Marla Orenstein is co-author of the textbook Health Impact Assessment in the United States.Published by Springer in 2014, this book analyzes the goals, tools, and methods of HIA, and the competencies that are central to establishing best practices and provides over 20 case highlighting good HIA practice. 

We established the standards.

We co-authored the guidance document Minimum Elements and Practice Standards for Health Impact Assessment, a widely-accepted and widely-cited document that helps define both HIA process and content.

We started the professional association.

In 2011, we co-founded the Society for Practitioners of HIA (SOPHIA), the only professional association for HIA practitioners.  SOPHIA now has over 500 members and promotes high-quality practice in HIA. Ame-Lia Tamburrini is currently vice-president of SOPHIA. 

We brought the people together.

We co-founded and co-organized the HIA of the Americas workshops that were held in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 in Oakland, California. Marla has also been part of the scientific committee for two past International HIA conferences and was part of the local organizing committee for the 2013 International Association for Impact Assessment conference.

We listen to what people have to say.

Ame-Lia Tamburrini co-authored the Guidance and Best Practices for Stakeholder Participation in HIA,which distills stakeholder participation techniques and guiding principles from fields including HIA, environmental and social impact assessment, land use and transportation planning, community-based participatory research and public health.