IOM Research Expertise

Health Impact Assessments

What is it?  And how is IOM involved?

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is about developing and applying tools for estimating the effects of policies and measures on public health, including how those impacts are distributed across the population.  IOM is involved in a wide range of HIA research and consultancy projects in the UK and internationally. 

We also have a strongly established tradition of research on HIA methods, which focuses on Environmental Public Health. We address those aspects of policies and measures that affect public health via the physical and natural environment, for example policies in transport, energy or agriculture that impact human health via changes to people’s exposure to air pollution, noise, pesticide use and other environmental factors.  For many environmental pollutants the scientific evidence allows quantitative assessment of health effects, with associated uncertainties.  See http://www.integrated-assessment.eu/, developed jointly by the EU-funded projects INTARESE, led by Imperial College London, and HEIMTSA, led by IOM.

But the real need is to integrate assessments across both environmental and social determinants of health.  For a good description of the relationship between the two, see the chapter Fintan Hurley and Sal Vohra have published in the textbook, “Environmental Medicine”.

20 years’ experience of Environmental HIA

Our research on Environmental HIA methods and tools started about 20 years ago, as part of the ExternE series of projects funded by the European Commission. These were large European collaborative projects, which developed methods for estimating the external costs (i.e. those costs not included in the price) of activities and policies in electricity production from fossil fuels, and transport.  This involved linking information through the many different stages of the impact pathway or “full chain”, from changes in emissions through to monetary valuation of health effects.  IOM helped develop the overall framework and led on developing methods for estimating the health impacts of changes in environmental exposures, including exposure to air pollutants.

Outdoor air pollution and IOM’s work on life tables - IOMLIFET

Our most sustained work methodologically has been the development of methods and tools for HIA of outdoor air pollution.  This work is highly regarded internationally and is described here.  For work on life table methods specifically, see the IOMLIFET web page. 

HIA of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution has long been recognised as an important public health issue. It is a current priority of the European Commission and several national and regional authorities within Europe.

Within the EU-funded HEIMTSA project, and a companion project IAPAH, led by University of Galway and funded by the EPA in Ireland, IOM has been developing methods for HIA of indoor air pollution, especially pollution from combustion sources indoors – environmental tobacco smoke; coal, wood, peat, for heating and cooking; gas cooking. The IAPAH summary final report and detailed supplementary reports will be web-published soon. 

Wider Environmental HIA

IOM is also strongly involved in developing, with others, HIA methods that encompass a much wider range of environmental factors.  We’ve led  two major collaborative research projects with this purpose:  (i) HEIMTSA, funded by the EU, focuses principally on pollutants and adverse health effects;  and (ii) EDPHiS,  funded by the Scottish Government, includes these aspects but focuses also on diet, physical exercise, injuries and the health benefits of a good environment.

IOM was also a partner in the  EU-funded project URGENCHE, focusing on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities in Europe and China.  IOM is involved in developing HIA methods.  Interestingly that includes effects on well-being as well as on health. 

For more information about our health impact assessment work please contact Sotiris Vardoulakis