Advancing the Practice of HIA at the State, Regional and Federal Level Working Group

Improving the Visibility and Use of HIA in NEPA

Leads

Justicia Rhodus: rhodus.justicia@epa.gov

Florence Fulk: fulk.florence@epa.gov

In Brief

As its first undertaking, this working group is tackling how to advance HIA and enhanced human health considerations in environmental impact assessment (EIA), specifically in federal actions taken under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). While NEPA requires the explicit consideration and analysis of direct, indirect, and cumulative human health effects for proposed actions, considerations of health and the broader determinants of health have largely been left out of the NEPA process. The practice of HIA has been seen as a way to not only enhance human health considerations, but also ensure considerations of environmental justice in NEPA. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently undertaken an effort to promote the use of HIA and/or HIA elements to address human health considerations in federal agency actions under NEPA. This working group is looking to leverage and compliment this opportunity to increase the visibility and use of HIA at the federal level.

Objectives

The objective of this working group is to identify how the HIA community of practice can leverage recent events to advance the use of HIA in state, regional, and federal plans, policies, and decisions. The working group will:

  • identify and prioritize concrete actions to increase the visibility and use of HIAs at these higher levels of decision-making; and
  • advance HIA and the consideration of health in environmental impact assessments conducted under NEPA.

History

This working group was first convened at the 2014 HIA of the Americas Workshop, and since that time has identified extensive opportunities for advancing HIA at state, regional, and federal levels. As part of its initial undertaking to advance HIA in NEPA, the working group has drafted a guide for HIA practitioners interested in integrating HIA and explicit consideration of direct and indirect health impacts into environmental impact assessments conducted under NEPA.

2016 Working Group Meeting Highlights

Seven (7) of the approximately 20 current working group members and eight (8) additional individuals participated in the working group meeting at the 2016 HIA Practitioner Workshop. These individuals, from universities, non-profits, federal agencies, and state health departments and organizations, came together to advance the visibility and consideration of HIA in federal actions conducted under NEPA by moving forward the guide for HIA practitioners currently under development by the working group and messaging to promote the use of HIA in NEPA.

The working group:

  • Discussed the purpose of the working group and how it can move the field of HIA forward
  • Provided an overview of the working group’s activities to date and the products expected from the working group’s efforts
  • Discussed the NEPA process, the need for enhanced health considerations in NEPA, and how HIA can be used to integrate health in federal EIAs conducted under NEPA
  • Solicited input on the general content and utility of the Draft HIA Practitioner’s Guide (a working group product that explains the NEPA process, illustrates the points of integration for HIA in NEPA, and identifies considerations and strategies for advancing HIA in NEPA)
  • Identified potential audiences for messaging HIA in NEPA
  • Solicited participants’ successes and challenges in past messaging efforts
  • Established a path forward to focus messaging in the Transportation sector initially due to the prevalence of evidence linking transportation and health
  • Established next steps

Future

Work will continue on the initial products of this working group, which include the HIA Practitioner’s Guide on incorporating HIA in NEPA; an associated HIA in NEPA journal article; and messaging to promote the use of HIA in NEPA. The working group may pursue additional activities to advance HIA in NEPA, but then plans to turn its attention and capitalize on some of the many other opportunities that exist for advancing HIA at the state, regional, and federal levels. Working group participants will be engaged via regular conference calls and will have opportunities to contribute to working group products and inform the path forward of the working group. New members are welcome to join the working group and the effort to advance HIA at higher levels of decision-making!


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