Is the increasing policy use of Impact Assessment in Europe likely to undermine efforts to achieve healthy public policy?

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2010 Jun;64(6):478-87. doi: 10.1136/jech.2009.094300.


European policymakers have recently become increasingly committed to using Impact Assessment (IA) to inform policy decisions. Welcoming this development, the public health community has not yet paid sufficient attention to conceptual concerns about IA or to corporate efforts to shape the way in which IA is used. This essay is a thematic analysis of literature concerning IA and associated tools and a related assessment of the European Union's (EU) new 'integrated' IA tool. Eight key concerns regarding IA are identified from the literature, many of which relate to the potential for undue corporate influence. Assessment of the EU's IA tool suggests that many of these concerns are valid. The findings raise crucial questions about the role of IA in public policy. By focusing mainly on the impact on the economy and business environment, the EU's current approach to IA may undermine healthy public policy. Those interested in public health need to acknowledge and respond to the problems associated with IA and evaluate the effects of 'integrated' IA tools on policy decisions affecting public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • European Union / organization & administration*
  • Health Policy* / economics
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Policy Making*
  • Public Health Administration* / economics
  • Risk Assessment / methods