Background: Health impact assessment has been identified internationally as a mechanism to ensure potential health impacts and health equity impacts of proposals are considered before implementation. This paper looks at the impact of three equity focused health impact assessments (EFHIAs) of health service plans on subsequent decision-making and implementation, and then utilises these findings to test and refine an existing conceptual framework for evaluating the impact and effectiveness of health impact assessments for use in relation to EFHIAs.
Methods: Case study analysis of three EFHIAs conducted on health sector plans in New South Wales, Australia. Data was drawn from 14 semi-structured interviews and the analysis of seven related documents (draft plans and EFHIA reports).
Results: The case studies showed that the EFHIAs all had some impact on the decision-making about the plans and their implementation, most clearly in relation to participants' understandings of equity and in the development of options for modifying service plans to ensure this was addressed. The timing of the EFHIA and individual responses to the EFHIA process and its recommendations were identified as critical factors influencing the impact of the EFHIAs. Several modifications to the conceptual framework are identified, principally adding factors to recognise the role individuals play in influencing the impact and effectiveness of EFHIAs.
Conclusion: EFHIA has the potential to improve the consideration of health equity in health service planning processes, though a number of contextual and individual factors affect this. Current approaches can be strengthened by taking into account personal and organisational responses to the EFHIA process.
- Conceptual framework
- Evaluation framework
- Health equity
- Health impact assessment
- Health service planning
- Impact evaluation