Background: Currently, no standard tool is publicly available that allows researchers or policy-makers to quantify the impact of policies using epidemiological evidence within the causal framework of Health Impact Assessment (HIA). A standard tool should comply with three technical criteria (real-life population, dynamic projection, explicit risk-factor states) and three usability criteria (modest data requirements, rich model output, generally accessible) to be useful in the applied setting of HIA. With DYNAMO-HIA (Dynamic Modeling for Health Impact Assessment), we introduce such a generic software tool specifically designed to facilitate quantification in the assessment of the health impacts of policies.
Methods and results: DYNAMO-HIA quantifies the impact of user-specified risk-factor changes on multiple diseases and in turn on overall population health, comparing one reference scenario with one or more intervention scenarios. The Markov-based modeling approach allows for explicit risk-factor states and simulation of a real-life population. A built-in parameter estimation module ensures that only standard population-level epidemiological evidence is required, i.e. data on incidence, prevalence, relative risks, and mortality. DYNAMO-HIA provides a rich output of summary measures--e.g. life expectancy and disease-free life expectancy--and detailed data--e.g. prevalences and mortality/survival rates--by age, sex, and risk-factor status over time. DYNAMO-HIA is controlled via a graphical user interface and is publicly available from the internet, ensuring general accessibility. We illustrate the use of DYNAMO-HIA with two example applications: a policy causing an overall increase in alcohol consumption and quantifying the disease-burden of smoking.
Conclusion: By combining modest data needs with general accessibility and user friendliness within the causal framework of HIA, DYNAMO-HIA is a potential standard tool for health impact assessment based on epidemiologic evidence.