Public health should become more integrated into government decisionmaking, according to National Research Council analysts, who in a new report outline why and how that could occur.
Public health assessments should be part of gov't decisionmaking, report says
The report, called Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment, outlines a six-step framework for human health impact assessments to be conducted ahead of major government projects, somewhat in the way environmental assessments are made.
Environmental impacts are assessed for plants or gophers before a freeway is widened, so why shouldn't one be done for humans, said Dr. Richard Jackson, chairman of the committee that oversaw the report as well as a professor and chair of environmental health sciences at the University of California at Los Angeles. If society embarks on a big enterprise, “we need to be looking at what is going to happen to people,” Jackson said.
The health assessments have been used and promoted successfully in other countries, and may cost money in the short run but will reap greater benefits in the long run, the authors contend. “Not having health at the table just doesn't make sense,” said report committee member Dr. Aaron Wernham, who is director of the health impact project at Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia.
The research council is part of the National Academies and its mission is to “improve government decisionmaking and public policy, increase public understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health,” according to its website.
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