The Institute of Public Health has launched a suite of new guidance documents that can help community organisations, local authorities, and other policy- and decision-makers to build healthier communities and reduce health inequalities.
The fourth edition of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Guidance for Ireland and Northern Ireland represents the first major update of this all-island guidance since 2009 and has been welcomed in both jurisdictions by Minister for Health in Northern Ireland Robin Swann, MLA, and Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being, and National Drugs Strategy in Ireland, Frank Feighan, TD.
The new HIA Guidance can assist policy- and decision-makers at national, regional or local level, including community organisations and local authorities among others, to assess the potential impact of a proposed new law, policy, programme or project and how it might affect the health of the community before it is implemented.
This in turn helps to ensure that new laws, policies, or programmes are more inclusive, more equitable, and more sustainable for everyone.
HIA is part of a ‘Health in All Policies’ approach and supports government strategies, such as Healthy Ireland in Ireland and Making Life Better in Northern Ireland, to improve population health and health equity.
The new HIA Guidance incorporates the latest international and European developments and best practice in the field.
One of the guiding principles of HIA is participation, which gives a voice to communities about proposed laws, plans, policies or programmes that may affect their health.
The HIA process also underpins the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to reduce health inequalities, improve health equity, and build healthier and more sustainable communities.
The fourth edition of this guidance details how HIA can be carried out as a standalone assessment or as part of health in environmental assessment, such as a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
HIA can also complement or inform other assessments, such as Poverty Impact Assessments, Human Rights Impact Assessments, Equality Impact Assessments, Regulatory Impact Assessments and Social Impact Assessments.
To launch the new guidance the Institute is hosting a webinar at 11am on Tuesday, 2 November, which will hear from experts in the field.
Among those addressing the webinar are Dr Julia Nowacki, Technical Officer, World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe; Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Programme Director for Health Impact Assessment, Public Health Wales; Maurice Meehan, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement (Northern Team), Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland; Dr Monica O’Mullane, Research Fellow, University College Cork; and, from the Institute of Public Health, Dr Helen McAvoy, Director of Policy, and Dr Joanna Purdy, Public Health Development Officer.
Outlining the benefits of HIA, IPH Director of Policy, Dr Helen McAvoy, said: “Designing policies and programmes that can provide everyone with the opportunity for health and reduce health inequity is a priority for the new Healthy Ireland Strategic Action Plan in Ireland as well as in the implementation of the Making Lifer Better public health framework in Northern Ireland. This new HIA guidance will be useful to people working to develop healthy communities and healthy places across the island of Ireland, whether they are working in the health and social care service, local government, environmental planning or community development.”
IPH Public Health Development Officer, Dr Joanna Purdy, added: “The new HIA Guidance is based on the principles of equity and equality, participation and sustainability and provides practical tools and support to assess the health impacts of new laws, policies or programmes. It uses the best available evidence to offer realistic and achievable recommendations to help improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.”
For more information about this new HIA Guidance visit www.publichealth.ie/hia.