The Center for Community Health and Evaluation conducted a 3-year evaluation to assess results of health impact assessments (HIAs) in the United States and to identify elements critical for their success.
The study used a retrospective, mixed-methods comparative case study design, including a literature review; site visits; interviews with investigators, stakeholders, and decision makers for 23 HIAs in 16 states that were completed from 2005 through 2013; and a Web-based survey of 144 HIA practitioners.
Analysis of interviews with decision makers suggests HIAs can directly influence decisions in nonhealth-related sectors. HIAs may also influence changes beyond the decision target, build consensus and relationships among decision makers and their constituents, and give community members a stronger voice in decisions that affect them. Factors that may increase HIA success include care in choosing a project or policy to be examined’ selecting an appropriate team to conduct the HIA; engaging stakeholders and decision makers throughout the process; crafting clear, actionable recommendations; delivering timely, compelling messages to appropriate audiences; and using multiple dissemination methods. Challenges to successful HIAs include underestimating the level of effort required, political changes during the conduct of the HIA, accessing relevant local data, engaging vulnerable populations, and following up on recommendations.
Results of this study suggest HIAs are a useful tool to promote public health because they can influence decisions in nonhealth-related sectors, strengthen cross-sector collaborations, and raise awareness of health issues among decision makers.