Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about Health Impact Assessments (HIAs). Last week I attended RailVolution where there was a panel on this tool. And last week’s PSU Transportation Seminar was a report on such an assessment for the Bike/Trail master plan in Clark County. The talk gives an excellent overview of what this tool is all about, you can listen to it here (MP3, 28.4M).
I’m most familiar with HIAs in the context of transportation projects, where generally the factors considered are how will the project impact air quality (either by increasing or reducing emissions) and what opportunities for active transportation (biking, walking) are created or destroyed.
It seems to me that HIAs could be a significant driver for building out our bicycle master plan – but we don’t seem to have made the political connection yet between bicycle transportation and public health. I hope that will change, and maybe HIAs can be part of that process.
This is particularly timely as we’ve just added a public health professional, Dr. Gary Oxman, the public health officer for Multnomah County to our Planning and Sustainability Commission.
So this question for today is: as we develop the health strategy component of the Portland Plan, at what level should we apply HIAs as an analysis tool?