The definition of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is “a combination of procedures, methods and tools by which a policy, programme or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population.” (ECHP, 1999). In line with this definition, health impacts are considered “the overall effects, direct or indirect, of a policy, strategy, programme or project on the health of a population.” An HIA aims to assist decision makers to make choices about alternative decisions.
In addition, a good HIA should respect four core values (ECHP, 1999):
- Democracy, emphasizing the right of people to participate in a transparent process in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policies that affect their life, both directly and through the elected political decision makers;
- Equity, emphasizing that HIA is not only interested in the aggregate impact of the assessed policy on the health of a population but also on the distribution of the impact within the population, in terms of gender, age, ethnic background and socioeconomic status;
- Sustainable development, emphasizing that both short and long term as well as more and less direct impacts are taken into consideration;
- Ethical use of evidence, emphasizing that the use of quantitative and qualitative evidence has to be rigorous, and based on different scientific disciplines and methodologies to get.
An HIA is not only intended to evaluate the impact of policies, projects, programs and interventions within the health sector but also, and maybe even in particular, to assess the impact of policies, projects, programs and interventions in the non-health sector (Lock, 2000). An HIA therefore stimulates intersectoral working.