Human Impact Partners believes that the institutionalization of Health Impact Assessment into routine government practice is an important goal. However, we are concerned that regulations requiring the conduct of HIA are premature. Without firmly established practice and additional examples of strong HIAs, such regulations could dilute community engagement and equity considerations within the process of HIA and thereby reduce the potential impact of HIA practice. These concerns and our review of the practice and regulation of HIA internationally have led us to prioritize conducting high quality HIAs and capacity building for HIA over advocating for new HIA legislation.
Though this is our focus, we acknowledge that there have been multiple efforts, some successful, around the country to pass legislation to require HIA. Below, you can find information about these efforts. For those interested in pursuing legislative approaches, we think special attention should be given to the language regarding equity and community engagement, such as that found in the Minnesota proposal.
The following pieces of legislation requiring HIA have been proposed in the U.S.:
California Healthy Places Act (2007)
In February 2007 California Assembly Member Mark Leno introduced the California Healthy Places Act (AB 1472). With implications for health, environmental justice and sustainability, the bill would have created a new program in the California Department of Public Health to guide and support cities and counties in conducting Health Impact Assessment of land use and transportation planning. While the bill was approved by the state Assembly, due to budgetary issues in California, the bill did not pass out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill is available here.
Federal Healthy Places Act (2006)
Senators Obama, Durbin, Clinton, and Kerry proposed legislation in 2006 that would have required federal agencies to support Health Impact Assessments and take other actions to improve health and the environmental quality of communities. The bill is available here.
Maryland Healthy Places Act (2007)
A bill introduced in Maryland in 2007 (HB 1034) would have required the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene to establish a working group to discuss and mitigate environmental health concerns and health disparities. This bill proposed a Health Impact Assessment pilot program that would have awarded grants for conducting HIA. The bill is available here.
Minnesota Healthy Communities Act
This bill, which is to be considered in the 2011 legislative session, would create a public health improvement fund to provide sustained, permanent support for public health improvement programs, including prevention and community engagement programs. It would administer grants for communities to engage in policy decision-making processes by conducting Health Impact Assessments to inv estigate health imp lications of projects, programs, or policies. The bill is available here.
Montgomery County, Maryland - Board of Health Regulation requiring a HIA for major road projects (2009)
The Montgomery County Council adopted a Montgomery County Board of Health regulation that requires a Health Impact Assessment before new roadway projects are approved. HIAs will analyze potential health effects of roadway projects, particularly related to air pollutants that would be generated by the new roads. The Resolution is available here.
New Mexico Health Impact Assessment Bill (2010)
New Mexico Senator Keller will introduce a bill during the 2010 legislative session that would require the analysis of health impacts of proposed legislation on community health. Health Impact Assessments would be supported by a fund generated by an annual assessment upon health insurers. According to Senator Keller, "understanding the social determinants of health and how they impact the cost of healthcare system and fundamental livability of our communities is critical to better decision making at all levels." The bill is available here.
Transportation Reform Legislation (2009)
The bill establishes the Healthy Transportation Compact, which requires the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to establish methods for planners, transportation administrators, public health administrators, and developers to implement HIAs on transportation projects. Check out the Massachusetts Department of Transportation website for more details.
Washington Bill Requiring Replacement of SR 520 Bridge to Include HIA (2007)
In May 2007, Senate Bill 6099 was signed into law by the Governor. SB 6099 established a mediation process to develop a project impact plan for the State Route 520 Replacement Bridge and HOV project. The legislation included language directing the mediation team to incorporate recommendations from a HIA conducted by Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Public Health – Seattle & King County. Goals were to assess project impacts on air quality, carbon emissions, and other public health issues; raise awareness among decision makers of the relationships between health and the physical, social, and economic environment; and make recommendations to enhance the project’s positive health impacts and to remove or minimize the project’s negative health impacts. The HIA was conducted between September 2007 and 2008. The bill is available here.
Washington Bill 2SSB 6195 "An act relating to health impact assessments" (2006)
The Washington State Legislature passed a bill in 2006, which was signed by the Governor, to create a mechanism for the Governor or a state legislator to request the Washington State Board of Health to conduct a Health Impact Review on any proposed state legislative or budgetary change. To date, the Washington State Board of Health has conducted a number of reviews of bills introduced into the state legislature. Access the bill here and completed heath impact reviews here.
West Virginia Senate Bill 558 (2007)
This bill, introduced by Senator Manchin and others, would require the state Bureau of Environmental Protection to conduct health impact assessments whenever the DEP proposes changes to air or water pollution standards. The bill is currently stalled in committee.
White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President Recommends HIA (2010)
The White House's inter-agency task force on childhood obesity, developed under the stewardship of First Lady Michelle Obama, released a report in May 2010 recommending several policy shifts in health care, community development, and transportation aimed at bringing down obesity rates among kids by five percent over the next 20 years. In the report the task force encourages local governments and communities to conduct HIAs before building new developments. The Federal government is encouraged to continue to support the development of an HIA approach, tools, and best practices. The report is available here.