Analysis

8 Organizations to Conduct Health Impact Assessments

Grants are aimed at improving community health

health impact assessments
© Ryan J. Lane/iStockphoto

The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is awarding grants to support health impact assessments (HIA) in five states.

Health is shaped by the places where one lives, works, learns, and plays. When policymakers make decisions on key issues such as jobs and schools, they have an opportunity to consider the impact on public health. HIAs explain the likely impacts—and issue recommendations on how to optimize health—through a flexible process that uses scientific data and stakeholder engagement.

The grants will support organizations conducting HIAs in Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Mexico. All of the assessments, to be completed by summer 2019, will be on policy proposals in sectors outside health care. The goal is to help address economic and social barriers that lead to gaps in health, such as poverty and discrimination, and ensure that all people have the opportunity to be healthy. 

Over 400 HIAs have been completed or are in progress in the United States, but some states or regions have not yet applied this approach, particularly in rural locations. The Health Impact Project designed the competitive grants to invest in communities that are interested in using HIAs to address the social and economic factors that drive health but have not necessarily done so before.

Eight organizations received funding: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.; Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund; Kentucky River Area Development District; Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability; Merced County Department of Public Health; Mercy Medical Center Merced; and Mississippi State Department of Health.

The HIA projects include:

  • Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, in partnership with Children’s HealthWatch, will examine how state tax laws, including earned income and child tax credits, affect household income, and, in turn, families’ access to healthy foods, health care, utilities, and safe housing.
  • California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., in partnership with the University of California, Davis’ Center for Regional Change, will explore how the availability of trained interpreters affects the community’s ability to interact with health care providers, police officers, landlords, potential employers, and other individuals or organizations.   
  • Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund will examine how state environmental decisions, such as converting diesel school buses to electric vehicles, could improve air quality, and how that could affect public health. Juntos: Our Air Our Water, Chispa, and Global 505 will support community engagement efforts.
  • The Kentucky River Area Development District will determine how the region’s comprehensive economic development strategies can affect health through changes to safety and family and social support in eight counties in southeastern Kentucky.
  • The Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability will examine how decisions related to wastewater infrastructure will affect public health in California’s Fresno and Riverside counties.
  • The Merced County Department of Public Health will examine how zoning ordinances or a city plan affect unemployment, childhood poverty, and violent crimes.
  • Mercy Medical Center Merced, an organization of Dignity Health, will document the connections between the county’s behavioral health practitioners, such as licensed clinical social workers, marriage family therapists, or clinical psychologists, and health outcomes tied to poverty, employment, and substance use.
  • The Mississippi State Department of Health will partner with community stakeholders in the city of Natchez and Adams County to embed health considerations in planning efforts related to economic development, historic preservation, and revitalization in Adams County.

The California HIAs are supported through funding from The California Endowment. For more information about selection criteria and the goals of these grants, read the 2017 call for proposals.

Bethany Rogerson is a manager and Emily Bever and Gabriella Illa are associates with the Health Impact Project.

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