Health in Impact Assessments: Opportunities not to be missed
Prospective impact assessment is a consolidated approach for pursuing foresight in policy and decision-making, systematically deployed worldwide. There is consensus that, even in well developed impact assessments, human health is not always covered adequately. Partly as a response, health impact assessment (HIA) has emerged and has been applied in several countries in Europe and beyond. Opinions about the merits of HIA separate from other forms of impact assessment differ. This publication aims to provide a detailed and balanced view on “health in impact assessments”. Five key types of impact assessment, namely environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, social impact assessment, sustainability assessment, and HIA are presented, and four key questions are discussed: How can the various assessments contribute to promoting and protecting human health? How can further integration of health support the various forms of impact assessments? What forms of integration seem advisable? What priorities for further development? This analysis suggests that the potential of impact assessments to protect and promote health is underutilized, and represents a missed opportunity. Ways need to be found to exploit the potential to a fuller extent.