The need for health impact assessment in China: Potential benefits for public health and steps forward
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Health impact assessment (HIA) is a useful tool to predict and estimate the potential health impact associated with programs, projects, and policies by comprehensively identifying relevant health determinants and their consequences. China is undergoing massive and rapid socio-economic changes leading to environment and population health challenges such as a large increase in non-communicable diseases, the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, new health risks associated with environmental pollutants and escalating health inequality. These health issues are affected by multiple determinants which can be influenced by planned policies, programs, and projects. This paper discusses the needs for health impact assessment in China in order to minimize the negative health consequences from projects, programs and policies associated with rapid social and economic development. It first describes the scope of China's current impact assessment system and points out its inadequacy in meeting the requirements of population health protection and promotion. It then analyses the potential use of HIA and why China needs to develop and apply HIA as a tool to identify potential health impacts of proposed programs, projects and policies so as to influence decision-making early in the planning process. Thus, the paper recommends the development of HIA as a useful tool in China to enhance decision-making for the protection and promotion of population health. For this to happen, the paper outlines steps necessary for the establishment and successful implementation of HIA in China: beginning with the establishment of a HIA framework, followed by workforce capacity building, methodology design, and intersectoral collaboration and stakeholder engagement.
Environmental Impact Assessment Review