Health Impact Assessment

Why Conduct an HIA

Health Impact Assessments
Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a process that helps evaluate the potential health impacts of a proposed project, plan, or policy before it is approved, built, or implemented. HIA aims to inform decision
makers about the potential health impacts of a decision and provide recommendations to increase positive health outcomes and minimize adverse health outcomes. The process is particularly useful in non-health sector decisions, such as transportation and land use. 

Figure 1 below is a high level overview of the types of HIAs. Comprehensive HIAs require the most resources, time and funding and can be scaled down if needed.


Figure 1: High level overview of the types of HIAs.

HIA has a multitude of benefits beyond informing decision makers with a rigorous, data-driven assessment of health-related impacts. For Harris County Public Health, the HIA process helps accomplish a number of goals:

  • Develops a deep understanding of health issues from local knowledge and expert opinions
  • Establishes networks and pathways to better mobilize stakeholders (e.g., community-based organizations and local government) and community members around collective actions to address common barriers to healthy communities
  • Effects change with upstream health issues (social determinants of health) in order to impact long-term population health outcomes

HIA Process:

HIAs follow a six-step process depicted in the Figure 2 below. For more in-depth information about the six-steps and how to conduct an HIA see the Health Impact Toolkit.


HIA Case Studies

The Harris County Public Health Built Environment (HCPH BE) Unit conducts Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) and Health Impact Reviews (HIRs) to examine and lessen health risk through policy, planning, and development decisions in the Houston-Harris County region. For completed HIAs, see below. 

East Aldine Districts’ Town Center Development 

This HIA was performed on the development and design of the East Aldine Management District’s proposed town center. It focused on how the town center will affect mobility and connectivity in the area. 

Healthy Planning in Pasadena, Texas 

In partnership with the City of Pasadena Planning Department, HCPH conducted a HIA on proposed updates to city residential ordinances. It focused on how changes in city ordinances and community design could impact the health of the community. 

Other Completed HIAs 

Additional completed HIAs can be found at The PEW Charitable Trusts and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Health Impact Project.

Funding Resources

The Built Environment team will work with partners to determine the amount of funding needed to conduct a HIA or HIR. If the process timeframe permits additional use of tools or the use of subject matter experts then funding will likely be required. There are a number of grant opportunities available related to improving the built environment and conducting health assessments. 

Summarized below is a non-comprehensive list of organizations that historically support built environment and health initiatives.

For more in-depth methodology and examples see the Health Impact Toolkit.

See the Health Impact Toolkit for detailed methodology and examples