Evaluation is the formal process of determining the quality or value of something and is an important part of any public health intervention.
Evaluation can be used to demonstrate that good practice is being followed, to demonstrate that the intervention did what it set out to do, and to demonstrate the worth of that type of intervention.
As a relatively new approach, it is particularly important that Health Impact Assessments (HIA) are evaluated to demonstrate the worth of HIA. Evaluation of HIA is generally regarded as an underdeveloped field, and in fact is regarded by some as its greatest weakness. Evaluations of HIA include documentation of the process to demonstrate good practice; and demonstration that the predictions relating to health effects were accurate, and the recommendations were accurate.
In order to evaluate an HIA, it is important to ensure sufficient ongoing commitment from those involved in the HIA for evaluation; ensure adequate resource for evaluation; and develop evaluation design to reflect the interests of the wide range of stakeholders involved. It is also important to first define the aims and objectives, and limits of the HIA, as a prerequisite for evaluation.
The book Effectiveness of Health Impact Assessment: Scope and Limitations of Supporting Decision-making in Europe is a useful resource. Available on the World Health Organization Europe website, it provides a detailed map of the use of health impact assessment in the WHO European Region across a large range of sectors, including transport, environment, urban planning and agriculture, and at national, regional and local levels.
It also reviews the implementation and institutionalization of HIA with specific focus on governance, financing, resource generation and delivery.