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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
8-Jun-2010

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Contact: Becky Wexler
bwexler@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5729
Burness Communications

RWJF and Pew award 6 grants to examine the impact of policy on people's health

New assessment tool will provide decision makers data on how policies, projects and programs can affect people's health

WASHINGTON -- The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, today announced more than $1 million in grants to six projects that will conduct health impact assessments at the state and local levels.

A health impact assessment (HIA) is a powerful tool that helps policy makers understand how a proposed project or policy could affect the well-being of the people in a community. The information provided by an HIA enables policy makers to weigh the pros and cons of their decisions and put in place practical strategies that minimize adverse health effects and maximize potential benefits.

The six projects -- in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Texas -- are at the forefront of a burgeoning movement in the United States to ensure health is considered in sectors that do not traditionally factor it into their decision making. The HIAs will analyze the likely health effects of pending decisions, such as budget modifications being considered by a state legislature, transportation plans for the construction of a light-rail system and a land-use proposal to redevelop an abandoned factory site.

"These pioneering projects will provide many valuable lessons for other leaders in sectors that may not focus on health, but produce policies and programs that have clear ramifications," said Aaron Wernham, M.D., director of the Health Impact Project. "Health impact assessments can be used to weigh complex proposals and help decision makers craft solutions that avoid unforeseen effects and create conditions that give people every opportunity to lead healthy lives."

HIAs have been widely used in Europe, Canada and other countries, but are now emerging as a policy-planning tool in the United States. This approach can be used to address community concerns early in the planning process, generate stakeholder support and consensus and steer proposals swiftly through approval and implementation. Government agencies, universities, local communities and nonprofit organizations from all over the country are pursuing HIAs and capitalizing on this new trend in decision making.

"Many of the biggest decisions that impact our well-being are made outside of the health and health care sectors," said Michelle A. Larkin, J.D., M.S., R.N., senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "By enabling leaders in these sectors to factor health considerations into their decision making, we can help stem the rising tide of chronic disease and create safer, healthier communities."

The six grantees announced today are:

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To learn more about HIAs, how they work, previously funded projects and the goals of the Health Impact Project, please visit www.healthimpactproject.org.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime (www.rwjf.org).

The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life (www.pewtrusts.org).



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