Health Impact Assessment and health inequalities

Health Impact Assessment is an important part of action to address health inequalities; ‘systematic and unjust differences in the health status between different groups of people’.

Most proposals may create both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and therefore exacerbate existing or create new inequalities.

Consideration of health inequalities should therefore be central to all health impact assessments. A health impact assessment should identify different groups that may bear different impacts, and show how each group will be affected, positively or negatively.

In order to reduce health inequalities, recommendations should aim to maximise the benefits to the most vulnerable groups, and show how those who will be disadvantaged by the proposal may be compensated.

The potential for HIA to help address health inequalities has been recognised in a number of policy documents on health inequalities. These include the Acheson Report (external link), Equally Well (external link), the report of the Scottish Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities (external link) and Closing the Gap in a Generation (external link), the report of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

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