Assess Pedestrian Projects, Plans or Policies with Health Impact Assessment

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a process that analyzes the potential health impacts of a proposed plan, project, or policy that is typically outside the public health realm, such as transportation or land use decisions. An HIA provides evidence to help health be considered in that decision-making process. An HIA usually suggests ways of mitigating, monitoring, and/or managing the health impacts of a project. It can also recommend project implementation or prioritization strategies to maximize the health benefits for a community.

  • Time an HIA carefully. HIAs must inform decision-makers before they make a decision. Schedule enough time for a full assessment, with flexibility to address community concerns
  • Conduct an HIA only if decision-makers are interested in the outcome
  • Tailor the approach and scope of an HIA to fit each identified project; HIAs can focus on broader health outcomes or the specific impacts of a project or plan
  • Incorporate relevant data, including literature reviews, primary-data collection, and stakeholder consultation
  • Human Impact Partners suggests an HIA should follow six steps:
    • Screening to identify projects or policies for which an HIA would be useful
    • Scoping to identify the health impacts to evaluate, methods for analysis, and which populations are affected
    • Assessment to evaluate a community’s existing health conditions and its potential health impacts
    • Recommendations to manage those health impacts, including ways to better distribute health burdens and benefits or maximize secondary health benefits of a policy
    • Reporting to communicate findings and recommendations to decision-makers
  • Evaluation to track the HIA’s impact on the decision-making process, civic development, and the community’s overall health
  • Clarifies the health impacts of a proposed project
  • Helps maximizes health benefits for community members
  • Educates decision-makers to help them make informed decisions
  • Assesses how projects will affect all community members, especially vulnerable populations
  • Improves cross-sector collaboration in decision-making
  • Supports transportation and land use decisions that reduce traffic-related injuries or accidents, and that improve air quality and/or promote physical activity
  • Supports sustainable transportation and land use developments that encourage walking
  • Helps engage stakeholders in the decision-making process
  • HIA is a relatively new practice that must be transparent and well-documented to help ensure its credibility with decision-makers and the general public
  • HIA is a decision-support tool, not a decision-making tool; it should create an impartial evidence-based assessment, not an advocacy campaign
Where to Use It
  • Local and regional plans, policies, and developments, such as pedestrian master plans, comprehensive plans, waterfront redevelopments, and waste-transfer plans
  • HIAs are typically completed by state or regional public-health departments, or nonprofit public-health organizations
Professional Consensus

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.