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Health Impact Project announces $400,000 in grants to 4 organizations to conduct health impact assessments

November 20, 2015

The first-ever HIA on a major metropolitan transportation and comprehensive growth plan will be led by the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (CQGRD) at the Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Architecture. The Center will examine how PLAN 2040??”which is being conducted by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the local intergovernmental coordination agency??”will impact a range of health issues, such as injury and asthma rates, and the risks of obesity and diabetes. PLAN 2040 integrates multiple aspects of regional planning, including transportation and land use; housing; greenspace; and water and air quality through the year 2040. A final HIA is expected in September 2011.The study by the Green River District Health Department in Owensboro, KY, is the first to address the overall health impacts that may result from a coal gasification project. Rather than burning coal, gasification techniques utilize a technology that converts coal into a substitute or synthetic natural gas. Together, the proposed plants??”Cash Creek, Kentucky NewGas and Indiana Gasification??”have the potential to affect nearly 500,000 people living nearby. The HIA will examine important health tradeoffs that could be associated with the planned projects. These include the benefits they could bring to the health of area residents as a result of employment opportunities and subsequent increase in income, health care access and local tax revenue, as well as the risks posed by any emissions produced. This HIA will provide practical recommendations for actions that could be taken to maximize the benefits and minimize any potential harm from these projects.  The HIA's recommendations will be included in a final report scheduled to be completed by February 2011, and can inform lawmaker's decisions concerning these plants. "Smart meters" may help electric utilities improve the reliability of the power grid and encourage conservation during peak-demand periods, but the health risks and benefits of this technology have not yet been studied. That is why the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at Boston Medical Center plans to produce a unique HIA of a pilot program run by Illinois' largest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison. The assessment will measure the health effects of this technology in western metropolitan Chicago, in particular how these innovations could protect customers from potentially life-threatening exposure to heat or cold. The HIA also will look at the impact of energy prices on vulnerable populations such as the elderly, low-income or disabled, and the potential for this technology to increase or decrease the utility's quality of service. The findings, expected in mid-2011, will become a model for understanding the potential impacts of widespread implementation. The grantee and Chicago's non-profit Citizens Utility Board will collaborate on the HIA, disseminate the findings and make recommendations based on what was learned from the assessment to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the regulatory body monitoring the pilot program. Upstream Public Health, a public policy non-profit based in Portland, OR, will conduct a novel HIA of proposed legislation in Oregon that would provide state funds to purchase locally-grown foods for schools and set up school teaching gardens. The lessons learned from this project could be applied to other food and agricultural policies being considered by states across the nation. The goal of the HIA is to inform state lawmakers and examine how the proposed law would impact child nutrition in public schools and the economic health of rural communities. The analysis will examine how new purchases of local foods, especially fruits and vegetables, will impact a variety of diet-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity. In addition, the HIA will consider how increased local food purchasing could best benefit the health and well-being of economically-depressed rural communities. The full report is expected to be available in March 2011.

SOURCE The Health Impact Project