New Rutgers initiative to examine health impacts of post-Sandy decision making

October 9, 2014

A new Health Impact Assessment (HIA) project by the New Jersey Health Impact Collaborative (NJHIC), an effort facilitated by Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), will examine the health impacts of post-Sandy decision-making and recovery. The preliminary findings of the project—currently underway and extending through February 2016—will be presented at New Jersey’s first statewide HIA conference in May 2015.

Dedicated to promoting strategies that integrate early consideration of health outcomes into planning and decision-making, NJHIC is committed to advancing health in all policies in New Jersey. Each of NJHIC’s new initiatives is designed to inform state, regional, and local decisions in order to build healthier communities and citizens.

This new project is one of the few HIAs that have been applied to disaster recovery decision-making in the United States. It is funded through a $350,000 grant by The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and will be conducted in partnership with New Jersey Future and The Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey.

“Health impact assessment is a tool that helps to ensure health is considered in a broad range of policy and planning decisions. Across the country, decision-makers at all levels are successfully using these assessments to mitigate health risks and improve community health,” said Kara Blankner, manager of the Health Impact Project. “This is an important opportunity to bring the benefits of this tool to disaster recovery efforts.”

The project includes four components:

  • Assessing the health impacts of possible scenarios for buy-outs of properties in a flood prone neighborhood in Little Egg Harbor, Ocean County, New Jersey;
  • Predicting the health outcomes of a comprehensive stormwater management plan in Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey that is intended to reduce chronic flooding;
  • Developing a toolkit that municipalities can use, along with municipal trainings, to integrate HIA into local decision-making;
  • Developing overarching recommendations for how the practice of HIA can be integrated into post-disaster planning and decision-making in the United States.

“RWJF is proud to support this innovative work in our home state,” said Marco Navarro, senior program officer for the New Jersey portfolio of work at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This project will provide critical insight into how, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we can rebuild our communities in ways that ultimately improve health and long-term resiliency.”

Preliminary findings of the project will be presented at the inaugural statewide NJHIC conference, “Health Impact Assessment in New Jersey: Building Capacity to Advance Healthier Decisions,” to be held on May 7, 2015 at the Cook Campus Center at Rutgers University.

“One of the major aims of the conference will be to identify the policies and types of projects where the use of HIA could lead to improved health outcomes and more collaborative decision-making that affect the homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities of New Jersey,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School.

Leading HIA experts from outside New Jersey as well as practitioners from within New Jersey will participate in the conference as part of NJHIC’s ongoing efforts to increase the use of high quality HIAs to improve health outcomes of decision-making in New Jersey. More information about the conference and registration will be available at the NJHIC website njhic.rutgers.edu.

For more information about the project, please contact Jeanne Herb at  848-932-2725 or jherb@ejb.rutgers.edu.

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