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Health Impact Assessment FAQ

Printable FAQ - June 2011 (776KB)

  1. What is a Health Impact Assessment?
  2. Why are HIAs conducted?
  3. What major steps are involved in conducting an HIA?
  4. Has an HIA been prepared for a major freeway project before?
  5. Is an HIA part of the Gateway Cities Air Quality Action Plan?
  6. What is a Health Risk Assessment?
  7. How does an HIA differ from an HRA?
  8. Will an HRA also be conducted as part of the Gateway Cities AQAP?
  9. Is an HRA also being prepared for the I-710 Corridor Project Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement?
  10. How are health issues typically incorporated into an EIR/EIS?
  11. How will the results of the Gateway Cities AQAP - I-710 HIA be used?

1. What is a Health Impact Assessment?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is “a combination of procedures, methods, and tools by which a policy, program, or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of effects within the population.” HIAs have also been described as an emerging discipline that evaluates the impact of specific policies and projects on health, where health is broadly defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely by the absence of disease or infirmity.

2. Why are HIAs conducted?

HIAs are conducted to inform decision makers about the potential health impacts that may result from implementation of proposed projects, programs, or policies.

3. What major steps are involved in conducting an HIA?

There are six major steps involved in conducting an HIA:

  • Screening – determines the need for an HIA
  • Scoping – identifies potential impacts to evaluate and methods for analysis
  • Assessment – identifies the status of baseline health conditions and factors that determine health outcomes; evaluates potential positive and negative impacts of the proposed project on those factors and on health conditions
  • Recommendation – identifies strategies to manage identified health impacts
  • Reporting – communicates development of the HIA report and the findings to stakeholders
  • Monitoring – tracks the effect of the decision on health determinants and outcomes

4. Has an HIA been prepared for a major freeway project before?

No. Although HIAs have been conducted in the United States for the past 10 years, it is still an emerging field of study.

5. Is an HIA part of the Gateway Cities Air Quality Action Plan?

Yes. One of the components of the Gateway Cities Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) study is the Interstate 710 (I-710) HIA. The Gateway Cities AQAP is a long-term plan intended to further improve air quality and public health through the identification of additional measures to reduce emissions. The AQAP was requested by the I-710 Oversight Policy Committee (OPC) and subsequently supported by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board.

The Gateway Cities AQAP and I-710 HIA will study how to further improve air quality and public health in the Gateway Cities subregion.

6. What is a Health Risk Assessment?

A Health Risk Assessment (HRA) is used to determine if a particular chemical poses a significant risk to human health and, if so, under what circumstances.

7. How does an HIA differ from an HRA?

Points of Comparison Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Health Risk Assessment (HRA)
Evaluation criteria May be qualitative or quantitative Quantitative analyses and evaluation criteria
Relationship between exposure and outcome May be direct or indirect; relies on best available evidence Direct
Significance criteria May or may not be defined within an HIA process Defines significance criteria
Regulatory acceptance Relatively new and continuing to develop as a field of analysis Widely accepted by public agencies

8. Will an HRA also be conducted as part of the Gateway Cities AQAP?

Yes. An HRA will be conducted as part of the Gateway Cities AQAP. It will evaluate the impacts to public health as a result of changes from proposed actions in the AQAP for the Gateway Cities subregion. The HRA will provide policy makers and the general public with additional information regarding which air quality improvement measures may yield the greatest benefits in respect to health impacts. This will provide a catalog of potential benefits to the Gateway Cities communities that result from the suite of measures listed in the Compendium, the HRA report, and other details that may be developed by the AQAP process.

9. Is an HRA also being prepared for the I-710 Corridor Project Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement?

Yes, there is an Air Quality/Health Risk Assessment (AQ/HRA) for the I-710 Corridor Project Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). The I-710 AQ/HRA will perform an analysis of air quality and human health risk impacts for the I-710 Corridor Project, consistent with California Environmental Quality Act/National Environmental Policy Act (CEQA/NEPA) requirements. A second analysis will also be prepared to support a transportation conformity determination, consistent with federal and state transportation conformity requirements. The I-710 Corridor Project EIR/EIS is also evaluating the impacts of the project on other health issues—such as air quality, noise, safety, congestion, property impacts, recreation, and park impacts—on the adjoining communities.

10. How are health issues typically incorporated into an EIR/EIS?

There are three ways in which health issues are typically incorporated into an EIR/EIS:

  • As a health risk assessment for a discrete exposure
  • As a discussion of risk factors for health (e.g., air quality, traffic flow)
  • As a demonstration of compliance with a health-based environmental law, such as the Clean Air Act

11. How will the results of the Gateway Cities AQAP - I-710 HIA be used?

The results of the AQAP, which includes the I-710 HIA, will be used to inform the development of additional measures to further improve air quality in all of the Gateway Cities and will be forwarded to the I-710 EIR/EIS Project Committee upon completion. The decision to incorporate the results of the I-710 HIA into the I-710 EIR/EIS rests with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the agency of record for the environmental clearance.

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