The health impact assessment is a process which is designed to evaluate and identify the positive or negative effects of a proposed policy, program, or project on people’s health in a particular community. Generally speaking, there are seven stages which comprise HIAs: scoping; data gathering and analysis; identification of health issues and relevant stakeholders; evaluation of options for mitigation; synthesis into recommended action steps; reporting of findings and recommendations; and review/dissemination.
HIAs differ from other forms of assessments such as an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or a community health assessment (CHA) in that they focus specifically on how a proposed policy decision may affect public health outcomes by considering both direct impacts—such as air quality—as well as more indirect effects—such as access to healthcare services. While EIAs typically only apply to government-led projects, HIAs could be performed at any scale, from local neighborhood plans up to federal laws. They offer healthcare professionals a rare opportunity to give their input into how decisions outside of their area might affect population health in the future.