Do journalists spend too much time and effort covering the health and medical industry, and not enough covering the health consequences of broader policies?

It’s a question that springs to mind in light of an increasing use of health impact assessments (HIAs), a tool used to assess the likely health effects of policies, whether in transport, finance, education, health or other areas.

HIAs were on the agenda of the American Public Health Association conference in Denver this week, which was told how they had been used to improve policies in a range of areas, including planning of a freeway extension.

Dr Aaron Wernham, director of the Health Impact Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, gave several examples of policy changes that resulted from HIA projects in the US. These included passage of a living wage ordinance, increased funding for energy assistance for low-income residents, and increased availability of permanently rent-controlled housing for vulnerable populations.

Another speaker told of an HIA on a proposed housing project in Los Angeles that made recommendations for ensuring maximum health benefits and avoiding unintended negative impacts on health. These included suggesting that housing units needed to be affordable to low-income residents; built with an emphasis on larger units for bigger families; and asking the developer to set aside space for a grocery store selling healthy food.

What do we know about how HIAs are being used in our part of the world?

Ben Harris-Roxas, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation at the University of New South Wales, is part of a group of researchers hoping to answer exactly this question (and his list below gives plenty of potential story ideas for journalists interested in taking a broader approach to health reporting).

Ben Harris-Roxas writes:

Do you know of any health impact assessments that have been conducted in Australia or New Zealand? We need your help!

Health impact assessment (HIA) has emerged over the past 15 years as a decision support tool that examines the health impacts of policies, programs and projects before implementation, and recommends changes to implementation.  HIA is now being widely used across Australia and New Zealand, and globally.

Despite this rapid growth and widespread use, there are still gaps in our knowledge about the effectiveness of HIA.

The UNSW Research Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, Flinders University, Monash University, Curtin University and the University of Otago, have been funded by the Australian Research Council to study HIA’s effectiveness. The study is about how HIA changes decision-making and implementation, or not.

As part of this we’re  looking for HIAs conducted in Australia or New Zealand between 2005-2009 that have reports available.

I’ve included a list of HIAs we have identified so far below, sorted by state and year.

Do you know of any others? If you do, please email:

The list shows that there’s been quite a diverse range of HIAs, ranging from land-use planning to climate change adaptation.

Though this study is focused on HIAs, rather than environmental impact assessments (EIAs), we’re still interested in interested in any EIAs that have discrete health sections.

In many EIA reports health is integrated throughout, but if there’s any that you think have had substantive health component, we’d certainly be interested in taking a look at them. The issue of how health is considered within EIA is of course an important one, and we’re currently developing separate research proposals that address this issue specifically.

Thank you all for your help.


    • Sydney West Area Health Service Parramatta City Council HIA 2009

    • Equity Focused HIA of the Review of Goodooga Health Service 2009

    • Good for Kids Good For Life Equity Focused Health Impact Assessment 2008

    • Health Impact Assessment of Lithgow City Council’s Strategic Plan 2008

    • Oran Park and Turner Road Health Impact Assessment 2008

    • Coffs Harbour Our Living City Settlement Strategy Health Impact Assessment 2007

    • Greater Western Sydney Urban Development Health Impact Assessment 2007

    • Health Impact Assessment of the Redevelopment of Liverpool Hospital 2007

    • Health Service Realignment Health Impact Assessment 2007

    • Bungendore health impact assessment: urban development in a rural setting 2007

    • Greater Granville Regeneration Strategy Health Impact Assessment 2006

    • Health Impact Assessment of the Wollongoing Foreshore Precinct Project 2006

    • Indigenous Environmental Health Worker Proposal HIA 2006

    • Rapid Equity Focused HIA of the Australian Better Health Initiative: Assessing the NSW components of priorities 1 and 3 2006

    • Healthy Urban Planning: Recommendations from the NSW HIA project 2006

    • Health & Social Impact Assessment of the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy 2006

    • Ban on commercial fishing in the estuarine waters of New South Wales, Australia: Community consultation and social impacts 2006

    Health and Social Impact Assessment South East Queensland 2005


      • Assessing the health equity impacts of regional land-use plan making: An equity focussed health impact assessment of alternative patterns of development of the Whitsunday Hinterland and Mackay Regional Plan, Australia 2009

      • Flinders Street Redevelopment Project 2008

      • Gold Coast Council Landfill HIA 2009

      • Health and Social Impact Assessment South East Queensland 2005


        • HiAP Water Security Health Lens 2009

        • Equity Focused HIA of the South Australian ABHI School and Community Initiative 2008

        • Preliminary examination of the population health impacts of SASP targets including labour participation 2007


          • Leopold Strategic Footpath Network Health Impact Assessment 2008

          • Hobson HIA 2008

          • Drought Mallee Region HIA 2007

          • Health Impact Assessment in the East Gippsland Shire Council 2005

          • A matter of equity — Case Study Frankston City Council 2005

          • School closure—what is the effect on health? 2005


            • Health Impacts of Climate Change: Adaptation strategies for Western Australia  2007

            • The Role of Stakeholders in HIA: A Landfill Site and Housing Development in Mundijong, Western Australia 2007


            • Whakawateatia Hawke’s Bay District Health Board: Health Impact Assessment on the proposed Air Quality Plan Change 2009

            • Wairarapa Non-fluoridation of water WOHIA 2009

            • Makoura Responsibility Model 2009

            • Auckland Regional Transport Strategy HIA 2009Health Impact Assessment on the draft Wairoa District Council Waste Management Activity Management Plan 2009

            • Hia, Flaxmere Town Centre, Urban Design Framework 2009

            • Hia, Implementation of Oral Health Strategy Location of a Community Clinic in Flaxmere 2009

            • An Age-Friendly Community: Shaping the future for Waihi Beach HIA 2009

            • Manukau Built Form and Spatial Structure Plan HIA Report 2008

            • Christchurch South West Area Social and Health Assessment 2008

            • McLennan Housing Development, Papakura HIA 2008

            • Proposed Liquor Restriction Extensions in North Dunedin HIA 2008

            • Ranui Urban Concept Plan HIA 2008

            • Tokoroa Warm Homes Clean Air Project: Health and Well-being Impact Assessment 2008

            • Health Impact Assessment of Central Plains Water Scheme 2008

            • Health Impact Assessment of the Greater Wellington Regional Policy Statement Regional Form and Energy Draft Provisions 2008

            • Kerikei-Waipapa Draft Structure Plan 2007

            • Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy Health Impact Assessment 2006

            • Greater Wellington Regional Land Transport Strategy Health Impact Assessment 2006

            • Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: A Health Impact Assessment of Electricity Scenarios for New Zealand 2005-2050 2006

            • Mangere Let’s Beat Diabetes Health Impact Assessment. 2006

            • Social Impact Assessment of the Draft Nelson City Council Gambling Policy 2006

            • Avondale’s Future Framework rapid HIA: final report 2005

            • Hastings Graffiti HIA 2005

            • Wairau Road Widening HIA 2005

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