What is a health impact assessment? It is a structured way to evaluate the potential impact of policies or programs on the population’s health. It means seeing health as not only the responsibility of the ministry of health, but of all government departments at all levels Health impact assessments can provide an integrated policy response to complex problems that might involve solutions from a variety of departments.
For example, our report, Stepping it up: moving the focus from health care in Canada to a healthier Canada, discusses income as a key determinant of health. Canadians with the lowest incomes are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, live with a disability, be hospitalized for a variety of health problems, have many mental health issues and to die earlier. So how can governments approach this complex issue using health impact assessments? A healthy population has to be viewed as the responsibility of governments and society as a whole, not just that of the ministries of health. Governments need to work collaboratively, among ministries, to identify solutions beyond just the acute care system that take a look at policies affecting the health of these populations, and develop appropriate solutions.As the article says,