Health Impact Assessment: An Information Needs Assessment Across Sectors
Background: Over the last decade, the number of health impact assessments (HIAs) conducted has increased. The information contained in these studies provides valuable guidance for stakeholders in many professional fields and industries, also known as sectors. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that practitioners across sectors have unmet information needs and are facing challenges accessing and using information.
Methods: The research team conducted a series of focus groups to explore the information needs of practitioners across sectors and to identify challenges they face accessing this information. Participants were stratified by geographic location, sector affiliation, and level of expertise with HIAs.
Results: Findings suggest that practitioners from all sectors can benefit from the integration of health-related information, and the information contained in HIAs, into their work. Reported information needs include baseline data, geocoded socio-demographic information, and granular local data. Participants indicated that they obtain information from their professional network, universities sponsoring research, and online resources. Information challenges include lack of data that match the size and the scope of the target area of interest, proprietary or pay-for-access sources, varying terminology for the same concepts across sectors, inadequate resources and HIA expertise for searching, and limited information on the impact of findings of prior completed HIAs.
Discussion: Identifying and understanding the information needs of practitioners is essential to maximizing the use of existing and future HIAs. An interactive and comprehensive web-based repository system for HIAs may provide value and assist stakeholders in meeting these needs.
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