Health impact assessment (HIA) and risk assessment

We have a leading position internationally in developing and applying HIA methods for outdoor air pollution.  This work began more than 20 years ago with the ExternE project, estimating the public health effects of air pollution from electricity generation and transport.

It was developed further with funding from the Department of Health (DH), and various other EU projects, including AIRNET. Work for DH contributed greatly to the UK expert group COMEAP's statements about the mortality effects of long-term exposure to air pollution, and the related work of the UK Inter-Departmental Group on Cost-Benefit Analysis, led by DEFRA, developing UK policy on the control of outdoor air pollution.

In 2005/6 we led on developing HIA methods for quantifying the public health effects of outdoor air pollution EU-wide, as part of the Cost-Benefit Analysis of the European Commission's flagship policy on the control of outdoor air pollution across Europe, the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) Programme.

We have led internationally on using life table methods to express air pollution mortality risks, identified from cohort studies, in terms of impacts on population survival and mortality. This work, developed first as part of ExternE, later funded also by the DH, has led to new insights about the relationships between air pollution, life expectancy, deaths, and years of life lived and lost. The methods have become widely accepted internationally; they are used, among others, by WHO in its AirQ+ program.

We can support a wide range of health impact research and evaluation. We usually do this in conjunction with other academic and consultancy partner organisations and associates. We have used our HIA research expertise to support the World Health Organization and the UK Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) in the quantification of the health impacts of outdoor air pollution. We are currently leading on a research project aiming to quantify the health impacts of air pollution in Thailand.

We have developed and applied HIA methods for air pollution:

  • The HIA methods used for CAFE were developed further within the HEIMTSA project, led by IOM, and through working closely with APHEKOM.
  • We developed these methods further in a study for the European Commission in support of the EU's National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NECD).
  • Further methodological work on deaths, life expectancy, and population survival time (‘life years’) is written up as part of COMEAP’s (2010) report on Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution: Effect on Mortality.
  • IOM contributed to Public Health England’s (2014) report on Estimating Local Mortality Burdens Associated with Particulate Air Pollution. 
  • IOM developed further the HIA methodology for outdoor air in the context of the local health impacts of particulate matter from transport, as part of the EU TRANSPHORM project, where IOM led the HIA Work Package.

Our HIA approach meets good practice standards internationally, e.g. HIA guidance of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), and the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

We have helped develop two national and two international guides:

  • Good Practice Guidance on Health Impact Assessment, ICMM
  • Good Practice Guidance on Occupational Health Risk Assessment, ICMM
  • Health Impact Assessment of Greenspace: a guide, Greenspace Scotland, NHS Health Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage
  • HIA of Transport Initiatives: a guide, NHS Health Scotland

We also work with a range of partner organisations and associates to widen and strengthen the research and consultancy services that we can offer. We have conducted HIAs in a range of sectors, countries and for a wide range of clients. Sectors include:

  • Economic development
  • Energy (incl. oil and gas)
  • Health and social care
  • Housing
  • Mining
  • Regeneration
  • Transport
  • Waste
  • Water
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