Health equity impact assessment

Health Promot Int. 2014 Dec;29(4):621-33. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dat012. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


The World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health has called for 'health equity impact assessments' of all economic agreements, market regulation and public policies. We carried out an international study to clarify if existing health impact assessment (HIA) methods are adequate for the task of global health equity assessments. We triangulated data from a scoping review of the international literature, in-depth interviews with health equity and HIA experts and an international stakeholder workshop. We found that equity is not addressed adequately in HIAs for a variety of reasons, including inadequate guidance, absence of definitions, poor data and evidence, perceived lack of methods and tools and practitioner unwillingness or inability to address values like fairness and social justice. Current methods can address immediate, 'downstream' factors, but not the root causes of inequity. Extending HIAs to cover macro policy and global equity issues will require new tools to address macroeconomic policies, historical roots of inequities and upstream causes like power imbalances. More sensitive, participatory methods are also required. There is, however, no need for the development of a completely new methodology.

Keywords: health impact assessment; inequalities; international health; methodology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Impact Assessment / methods*
  • Health Impact Assessment / standards
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Research Design*
  • Social Determinants of Health*
  • World Health Organization