The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health impact assessment (HIA) as “a combination of procedures, methods and tools by which a policy, programme or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population”. HIAs have become increasingly prominent in the public health sector. For more than 20 years, HIAs of air pollution have been conducted in Switzerland to estimate the external costs of traffic. The last major methodological update regarding epidemiological methods was made for the year of analysis 2010 (published in 2014), while the next update is expected for 2021. Air pollution health research has been considerably developed in the last years, which is expected to have great consequences for the methods of future HIAs.
The project QHIAS (Quantification of health impact of air pollution in Switzerland), has as overall goal to develop a methodological framework for HIAs that integrates recent novel insights from air pollution health research and is in alignment with international HIA initiatives. QHIAS is funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, started in March 2021 and will finish in September 2023.
Specifically, the objectives of the project QHIAS are:
1. To review and compare methods, assumptions, scenario, and results of burden of dis-ease studies for air pollution which included Switzerland
2. To develop a methodological manual to estimate the morbidity and mortality attributable to various sources
3. To calculate the number of attributable deaths and years of life lost (YLL) for air pollution in Switzerland using the methods as proposed in the methodological manual
4. To conduct several sensitivity analyses to quantify the effects of methodological decisions such as choice of indicator pollutant, reference values, selection of outcomes etc. on the attributable deaths estimates
5. To explain changes in the burden of disease estimates over time in Switzerland as a function of air pollution exposure based on the proposed methodology.
For the achievement of these objectives, QHIAS will interact continuously with international HIA initiatives to mutually align methodological developments.