BOX 3-2Scoping: Atlanta BeltLine HIA

As described by Ross (2007, p. 9), “the Atlanta BeltLine is a transit, trails, parks, and redevelopment project that uses a 22-mile loop of largely abandoned freight rail line that lies between two and four miles from the city center” and affects about 45 neighborhoods. In 2005, an HIA was conducted by a multidisciplinary team. The goal was to incorporate health considerations into the decision-making process “by predicting health consequences, informing decision makers and the public about health impacts, and providing realistic recommendations to prevent or mitigate negative health outcomes” (p. 9).

One of the first steps in identifying the parameters of the assessment was to establish an understanding of the BeltLine, a complex project that had been evolving for several years and was expected to be constructed over a 30-year period. The HIA team needed an authoritative description on which to base its assessment. The Atlanta Development Authority’s BeltLine Redevelopment Plan (November 2005) was identified as a coherent and publicly accepted vision that had been approved by local elected officials (ADA 2005). The source of public funding for the project was the Tax Allocation District (TAD), and only within the district’s boundaries could funding be collected and bond money spent. A variety of planning and zoning, funding, and environmental regulatory decisions were required for the BeltLine’s various components to be developed.

The HIA team was assisted by an advisory committee, but it appears that the committee was not involved in the scoping. The HIA report states that scoping was done by the HIA team and involved desk-based research and a web and postal survey. The scoping phase was used to identify the parameters of the assessment, the affected and most vulnerable populations, and potential key health effects. The final HIA report describes each factor (see below) and presents the results of the scoping. The entire decision-making process is appropriately not described in the final report; however, the reader is not told whether the HIA team prepared a scoping report or whether it presented the findings of the scoping stage.

Affected populations: As the TAD constituted only a portion of the city that would be directly affected, the HIA team created the HIA study area by placing a 0.5-mile buffer around the BeltLine TAD. The HIA study area was divided into five planning areas, and census (2000) and mortality data were used to analyze the population profiles. Variations were found in race, age, employment status, poverty, car ownership, and mortality. It was not possible to derive mortality rates for demographic subgroups. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data were used for the county and the state and stratified by race.

Most vulnerable populations: Less information was provided about this step. The most vulnerable populations were identified as people of low economic status, children, older adults, renters, and the carless. Calculations were conducted to develop a vulnerability score. The top 10% of the census tracts within the study area were then identified as locations of the most vulnerable populations.

Key health effects: Issues were identified through analysis of newspaper coverage; outreach to such groups as local officials, members of the public, and businesses; development of a logic framework; and a survey of people living, working, or attending school near the BeltLine. The HIA team identified the following critical issues that could affect the health of the study area population: access and social equity, physical activity, safety, social capital, and environment (including air quality, noise, and water management).

Source: Adapted from Ross 2007.

From: 3, Elements of a Health Impact Assessment

Cover of Improving Health in the United States
Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment.
National Research Council (US) Committee on Health Impact Assessment.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.
Copyright © 2011, National Academy of Sciences.

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