Health in Impact Assessments

Fischer, Thomas ORCID: 0000-0003-1436-1221
(2014) Health in Impact Assessments. In: Health in Strategic Environmental Assessment. Opportunities not to be missed. WHO Regional Office for Europe,Copenhagen, pp. 23-47.

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The term SEA was first used in the late 1980s. Since then, SEA has become the most widely employed notion globally for the assessment of environmental impacts of public and private decision-making activities above the level of individual development projects. There are now over 40 countries with formal SEA requirements and associated legislation. In addition, there is substantial voluntary practice, and practice in developing countries driven by development banks. Initially, SEA was understood as involving the application of a project EIA process to strategic initiatives. However, it turns out that the higher the level of the strategic action, the less applicable EIA based methods and techniques tend to be. For example, a conceptual policy which aims at developing a broad development vision for a certain area will need specific methods and techniques, possibly ones that are more discursive and qualitative, rather than quantitative approaches more frequently used under EIA procedures. SEA is often portrayed in terms of a “framework” rather than just a process. The validity of the approach used in SEA is often seen as depending on the characteristics of the specific situation. Where SEA is more routinely applied, for example, in statutory land-use planning, highly structured processes as used in EIA can lead to positive results. In situations where vested interests are not too strong and power gradients not to steep, round table approaches involving multiple stakeholders can work well. Most SEA systems globally formulate requirements in terms of the process applied and the substantive issues addressed. Next to biophysical issues, human health is an issue which is routinely included, though, similarly to EIA, to a variable extent in terms of scope and breadth. This is true of the European SEA Directive, the UNECE SEA Protocol, as well as SEA legislation from various countries. WHO has committed itself to support the improved consideration of health in SEA. Development banks frequently ask for health to be addressed in their SEAs through the application of their Performance Standards. So, health already plays an important role in SEA. In current practice, however, whilst physical determinants of health (for example, emissions, pollution) are routinely considered, other health determinants, including social and behavioural aspects are only occasionally covered. A number of shortcomings have been observed. In many SEA systems, health stakeholders do not get engaged in SEA processes. One reason is that frequently they are not statutory consultees. Another is that health professionals are often uncomfortable about getting involved, as SEA is not a framework they are familiar with. In addition, the decision-makers for spatial and other policies, plans and programs often appear to lack a comprehensive understanding of health and may, as a consequence, only consider biophysical determinants of health.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: ?? GE ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2014 14:50
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:42
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