About Health Impact Assessment

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a way to promote healthy public policy, influence the social determinants of health, improve health and reduce health inequalities in Scotland.

Why Health Impact Assessment?

Policy decisions in all sectors including economic development, education, employment, transport, housing and others may impact on people’s health, often in unanticipated ways. Health Impact Assessment (HIA) uses a range of methods and evidence to identify these potential or actual health impacts of policies in order to minimise any negative and maximise positive impacts.

In 1999, HIA was defined in the WHO Gothenburg Consensus Paper (external link) 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’.

Health impact assessment addresses the questions:

  • Who will be affected by this proposal?
  • What health impacts, good and bad, will they bear?
  • What should be done to improve the health impacts?

Benefits of Health Impact Assessment

Health Impact Assessment is a structured approach to assessing and improving the health consequences of projects and policies. It can be used to assess and inform national or local policy, programmes or plans.

The purpose of HIA is to provide information to inform decision making and for that reason it is usually done prospectively, before the proposal has been implemented. Other benefits of HIA include improved inter-agency collaboration and public participation.

There is growing national and international support for using HIA as part of public policy-making. There have been strong endorsements of HIA by the Scottish and UK governments, European Commission and World Health Organisation.

HIA is a way to promote healthy public policy, influence the social determinants of health, improve health and reduce health inequalities in Scotland.

Updated 10 April 2015

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