New opportunities for Health Impact Assessment in New Zealand public policy and planning
This publication from the New Zealand
Public Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) encourages policy makers to
carry out a health impact assessment (HIA) as a routine part of policy
making. It discusses what health impacts are, the benefits of HIA, what
the PHAC has learned from its work on HIA, describes some HIA case
studies, and considers what is needed to make HIA a routine part of
policy making in New Zealand.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
discusses how good health and wellbeing of the population is largely a
product of the settings in which people live, work and play. This means
that improving the health and wellbeing of the population requires more
than the provision of health care services. It requires new ways of
working together with new approaches and new tools.
Public policies aim to benefit the whole
population but can result in unintended negative effects on health and
wellbeing, including the widening of health disparities. Health Impact
Assessment (HIA) is used to assist in reducing health inequalities
through planning and policy-making processes.
HIA is a formal process that aims to ensure
public policies, programmes and plans enhance the potentially
beneficial effects on health and wellbeing and reduce or mitigate the
potential harm with innovative solutions. Although relatively new in
New Zealand, it is a well-established approach internationally.
The publication shows how use of HIA can
also improve intersectoral collaboration and community participation,
and be an effective way of promoting community wellbeing across
sectors. HIA assists agencies to fulfil statutory obligations for
community health and wellbeing, for example under the Local Government
Act 2002, the Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Building Act
2004. It also has strong links with sustainable development goals.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
includes a number of New Zealand case studies that demonstrate the HIA
process. HIA is undertaken when there is a draft proposal(s) but no
commitment has been made. There must be an opportunity to modify the
policy proposal for improvement of health and wellbeing. The process is
informed by both quantitative and qualitative evidence, and focuses on
International experience has shown that an
explicit and systematic process, such as HIA, is needed to ensure the
availability of sufficient technical information. It also ensures that
health is broadly defined (to include wellbeing) and that equity issues
are addressed. The publication supports HIA becoming part of agency
ethos so it is a routine part of decision-making.
This publication is also related to the 2006 PHAC publication Health is everyone’s business,
which emphasises that effective action to improve health and reduce
health inequalities will involve collaborative effort across sectors.