Rapid Health Impact Assessment: Weatherization Plus Health in Connecticut

By Lynne Snyder, Ph.D., MPH, Consultant, Healthy Homes

How can Connecticut achieve its energy goal and create positive health outcomes, while reducing potentially negative impacts on health?

This week, a team led by the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) sub-grantee New Opportunities, Inc. and the Connecticut Association for Community Action (CAFCA) will release a rapid Health Impact Assessment (HIA), prepared to address this critical question. The rapid HIA is the fruit of six months of collaboration among local stakeholders from the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), state government, utilities, and healthy homes programs, with technical assistance by National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) Weatherization Plus Health team, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and Tohn Environmental Strategies.

New Opportunities Inc. logoNew Opportunities, Inc. is the community action agency (CAA) that serves Waterbury, Meriden, Torrington, and 27 surrounding Connecticut towns. It is well positioned to take an HIA leadership role. CAFCA’s CAA members provide services to all of the state’s 169 cities and towns, and its member CAAs provide Energy Assistance and WAP services throughout Connecticut.

A health impact assessment is a flexible, data‐driven tool that brings health and safety to the table for decisions made outside of the health arena. HIAs produce information for action related to a specific policy or program decision, using a systematic and impartial review of the evidence with broad stakeholder participation and focusing on addressing the health concerns of our most vulnerable residents. Rapid HIAs are designed to move quickly in response to a pending decision, while full HIAs may involve original data collection and analysis, over a period of 1 to 2 years.

For Connecticut, upcoming decisions about what, if any, additional health and safety measures to include in energy upgrades, and how to pay for them, sparked interest in developing an HIA. The rapid HIA looks at the likely outcomes for Connecticut residents of 16 health and safety measures, plus outcomes associated with WAP services, heating system repair or replacement, energy assistance, and thermal comfort. It uses literature reviews, modeling of the likely weatherization impacts, and cost-benefit analyses to create a priority list for health and safety and a series of recommendations for state decision makers to consider.

Health Impact Assessment is a promising best practice for the WAP network, one that can help agencies jumpstart or strengthen their partnerships with healthy homes. Check back soon for an update on Connecticut’s rapid Health Impact Assessment!

Health Impact Assessment Infographic

The Rise of HIAs in the United States (Infographic)
Graphic courtesy of the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
This post was originally posted on Wx Plus Health Blog.