Health Impact Assessment: Spartanburg Road Diet
A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a recently innovated tool that is used to measure the potential effects on the health of a population before a project or policy is implemented. The HIA framework was established by the Centers for Disease Control, and it offers recommendations to increase positive and minimize adverse public health outcomes.
Why are they important to bicycle advocacy work? In the words of the CDC, the HIA framework is used to bring potential public health impacts and considerations to the decision-making process for plans, projects, and policies that fall outside of traditional public health arenas, such as transportation and land use. Simply put, advocates can use the evidence of an HIA to support a certain project or policy, in the same way that a conservation group might use an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to consider the environmental impact of certain actions on social, cultural, economic, and natural resources.
For 2011 and 2012, the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH) is working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to support capacity building for Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) in South Carolina. This project was funded by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO).
As part of the capacity building process, IMPH spearheaded the first HIA in South Carolina and partnered with DHEC, Partners for Active Living, the Spartanburg Area Transportation Study (SPATS), and the Berkeley/ Charleston/ Dorchester Council of Governments (BCDCOG). The HIA examined the potential health impacts of the proposed re-striping and “road diet” of a downtown Spartanburg arterial road, Daniel Morgan Avenue. A road diet is a technique to reduce the number of lanes on a roadway to provide safe space for pedestrians and cyclists.
The results of this report are valuable to the work of advocates and bicycle supporters in the community. The HIA suggests the following impacts of the proposed road diet:
- HEALTH. Through increased opportunities for physical activity and access to goods and services that support a healthy lifestyle, many chronic diseases can be prevented on the community and individual level. Potential improvements to air quality could have a positive effect in preventing and controlling respiratory illnesses.
- SAFETY. The proposed improvements to the road design would allow for increased safety for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.