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Health Impact Assessment for analysis of energy policy: Ensuring the big picture is not missed

21 April 2015 April Semilla

Seasonal pollution spikes are hitting major cities around the world - including, ironically, in Paris, scene of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference. At the same time, there is significant discussion over the potential impact of the falling oil prices on climate and energy policy. As such, it is perhaps a timely reminder to look at the importance of Health Impact Assessments (HIA) as a means of adding unique insights to a one dimensional analysis. With health associated costs on the rise globally, a better understanding of the impacts that future projects and policies have on individual and population health is imperative, especially when that understanding is provided by analysis that provides clear, quantitative results.

In a recent engagement, IHS Life Sciences had the opportunity to work in tandem with teams from IHS Economic and Country Risk and IHS Energy to develop a multi-focus impact assessment. The project focused on the health, economic and energy implications of choosing coal as the primary source for a country's power generation needs, examining two different scenarios of power generation and the resulting associated effects.

IHS Life Sciences HIA study with Energy
For the HIA, the primary goal was to study the health impact of increased coal-powered energy generation, quantifying the effect of increased morbidities (e.g. bronchitis, asthma etc) and mortalities due to greater air pollution in terms of annual health costs per megawatt hour of electricity produced. While the figure above provides the approach for the HIA portion of this particular engagement, the methods can be tailored accordingly, as health impact assessment can be applied in a diverse array of settings, from transportation projects to climate change impact analysis.

Additionally, the findings from a high level HIA can act as a first step in exploring population level projected impacts on a more individual scale, providing estimates around expected magnitude of impact as a precursor to determining the costs on a per person basis. As the emphasis on health care and health care costs rises, the HIA becomes an even more valuable tool, providing a platform for the proactive examination of health outcomes, and one that should be considered for inclusion in every major decision making process.

April Semilla is a life sciences consultant for IHS
Published 21 April 2015

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