What is Health Impact Assessment?

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is commonly defined as ‘a combination of procedures, methods and tools by which a policy, programme or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population’.

This definition is known as the Gothenburg Consensus and was developed by a group of HIA practitioners in 1999. The Gothenburg Consensus Paper outlines the main concepts and suggested approach to HIA and is identified as a first step to creating a common understanding of HIA. 

The procedures, methods and tools that are used in HIA include policy analysis, demography, collation and analysis of evidence of health impacts, quantitative and qualitative research, and community consultation. HIA attempts to draw these elements together to enable a systematic identification of health impacts.

The purpose of HIA is to influence decision-making in favour of health. By completing a HIA, decision-makers should have evidence-based recommendations to maximise the positive and minimise the negative health impacts of proposals.  

In 2001, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) produced Health Impact Assessment: An Introductory Paper which focused on HIA and public policy.