Health impact assessment (HIA) is an interdisciplinary approach that aims at predicting and managing potential positive and negative health effects of policies, programmes, and projects on affected communities and populations. HIA has been developed over the past two decades and became an integral part of public health policies of many governments in the industrialised world. However, in many developing countries, where two-third of the world’s population are now concentrated, HIA is still the exception rather than the norm. In view of the high burden of diseases and pronounced health inequalities in tropical areas, this is a concern. Furthermore, it is anticipated that major drivers of global change (e.g. population growth and urbanization, increasing demand for natural resources and regional climate change) will have severe health implications, particularly in the developing world.
The region of South East Asia is characterized by dynamic and fast growth region where many large infrastructure development projects such as road and railway building, dam building, extractive industries and renewable energies sector are going. The capacity in HIA is generally lacking at the regional level except for Thailand where HIA was institutionalized. In Vietnam, a circular/decision on HIA guideline for large industrial projects has been issued by the Ministry. However, a pre-requisite for the application of the HIA guideline in Vietnam and elsewhere in the region is to build-up HIA expertise and capacity. The Center for Public Health and Ecosystem Research (CENPHER) at Hanoi School of Public Health (HSPH) has the goal to become a centre for HIA services, capacity building and research. More recently HSPH has developed a course on environmental health and is preparing curriculum of HIA to teach MSc and BSc student in the next years.
The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) has a long tradition of assessing health, environmental and social impacts of projects, programmes and policies. Health impacts of the Chad-Cameroon petroleum development and pipeline project were assessed and mitigation strategies developed. Subsequently, Swiss TPH participated in the HIA of the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric project in central Lao PDR. The methodology of the HIA and an in-depth appraisal of the baseline health situation of affected communities of this project have been published. In the meanwhile, the HIA group at Swiss TPH has been involved in 25+ HIA of industrial projects and green economy strategies in various countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Recently, Swiss TPH has collaborated with several partners in 4 continents to implement a HIA piloted to evaluate health impact of solid and liquid waste. Hanoi was one of the case study sites and Swiss TPH has worked with HSPH for this case. Initial capacity activity for Vietnam has been initiated. However, this was still at very early stage and needs to be fostered for strengthening HIA capacities in Vietnam in both training and research.