Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) "provide a way to factor health outcomes into decisions that affect both housing and neighborhoods, such as zoning, road-building, codes, or neighborhood revitalization" says Aaron Wernham, a physician a director of the Health Impact Project based in Washington, D.C., in Shelterforce's latest issue on health and housing.
HIAs are conducted in 6 steps that include screening and reporting. During perhaps the most important step - "assessing" - community members are regarded as true stakeholders in the decision-making process and help shape priorities of planned projects and which health outcomes should be promoted or avoided.
For a very candid look at the role the community plays (or stands to play, when enough pressure is present) in the HIA process, read the sidebar interview with ISAIAH executive director, Doran Schrantz (A Community-Driven HIA). Dr. Wernham challenges those first learning about HIAs, as well as those very familiar with the process and its use in the housing field, to think about how HIAs will affect neighborhoods, not just individual developments or units of housing.
Under the Health Impact Project's call for proposals, the Kresge Foundation recently funded two health impact assessments specifically addressing health and housing. With housing becoming a focus, the community development field should be at the HIA table.
Thanks to Brittany Stanley