Already in frequent use in Europe and Canada, "[a]n HIA, like an environmental review, evaluates the potential effects a major planning project might have on the public health of a surrounding community, and recommends certain actions needed to mitigate - or, in the case of health benefits, accelerate - those impacts," writes Jaffe.
As the effects of land use on public health become more prominent in the minds of planners, citizens, and officials, HIAs are a valuable tool in elucidating the direct connection between planning and design decisions and health outcomes. As an example, Jaffe explores the HIA completed for Atlanta's BeltLine project, which seeks to transform 22 miles of abandoned railroad near downtown Atlanta into parks, trails, transit, and development.
"Conducting the HIA required an interdisciplinary team of health professionals and planners to examine the BeltLine plans, compile all sorts of data on the community in the project's impact area, and compare these findings with existing public health literature. The HIA focused on several broad categories of health, from physical activity to access and equity to safety, and its 72 recommendations range from the broad and basic (Atlanta should speed up the BeltLine timeline) to the painfully specific (residential units should be at least 600 feet from high-volume roads to reduce impact of particulate matter)."