Health Impact Tools

Health Impact Tools (HITs) are comprised of Health Impact Assessments and Health Impact Reviews. These tools are commonly used to inform decision makers about health impacts in the community. HITs are best utilized during the draft stage of a proposed project or plan to highlight potential unintended health consequences or opportunities to promote health. HITs are scalable tools that can broadly cover various topics and sectors and can adapt to the timeframe given by the partners. Additional services can be provided with additional funding and time. Figure 1. Below highlights similarities and differences between the two tools.

Figure 1: The diagram above distinguishes the similarities and differences between HIAs and HIRs.


Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a tool used to help inform decision makers about the health impacts of proposed policies, programs, or projects and identify solutions to reduce any negative health effects and optimize beneficial health outcomes. HIAs examine social, economic and environmental influences and bring together important community members and stakeholders to help build consensus and represent the affected community. The systematic process typically involves six steps and uses a variety of data sources, including input from stakeholders and community members. HIAs can take 12 to 24 months to complete.

Health and Equity

HIAs and HIRs can identify existing health inequities and provide communities that are more adversely affected by those inequities with an opportunity to voice their concerns and become a part of the decision making process. For more information on how HIAs promote health equity, see NACCHO’s report.

The Health Impact Review (HIR) is comparable to the HIA as they are both used to provide a health lens on proposals to identify their health impact. HIRs require less time than a HIA and thus require less resources. Unlike the HIA, the HIR does not include recommendations, but provides factual information that will better inform the plan, project or policy of potential health impacts. 


Figure 2: Each type of HIT is broken down to further understand the required research, timeframe, engagement efforts, and recommendations needed.

Completed Harris County HIA and HIR Projects

East Aldine and City of Pasadena Health Impact Assessments

In partnership with East Aldine and the city of Pasadena, the BE Unit received a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the Episcopal Health Foundation. The project aimed to examine the impacts of East Aldine’s proposed town center and incorporated the city of Pasadena’s proposal to update residential ordinances. The reports produced identify solutions to reduce negative health effects and optimize beneficial health outcomes. 

Click on the communities below to access the full report.

Safe Crossings Project

The Safe Crossings Project was led by the BE Unit with funding from the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The project aimed to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety by identifying improvements to streets and intersections that pose a risk for increased injury in East Aldine and the city of Galena Park. The report provides recommendations that serve as a conceptual vision for the community to spur dialogue around safe active transportation among East Aldine and Galena Park decision-makers as the communities grow. 

Click on the communities below to access the full report. 

View a storytelling visual with maps and photos in the Safe Crossings Project StoryMap.

East End Bike Plan

The East End Bike Plan (Plan) is a comprehensive bicycle planning effort coordinated by Precinct 2, the East End District (EED), and the Harris County Engineering Department (HCED). The BE Unit developed this HIR based on a literature review of the potential health and socioeconomic impacts of bicycle infrastructure, programs, and policies, demographic and baseline health data, existing conditions data, and community feedback. As requested, this HIR culminates in recommendations for improving health and equity through the Plan.