The Role of Conceptual Learning in Health Impact Assessment

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Presentation for IAIA'10 International Association for Impact Assessment Conference in Geneva. http://iaia.org/iaia10/

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The Role of Conceptual Learning in Health Impact Assessment

  1. 1. The Role of Conceptual Learning in Health Impact Assessment B Harris-Roxas Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE) Part of the UNSW Research Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity Sydney, Australia
  2. 2. <ul><li>All HIAs are done to learn something </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>But do we agree on what we’re supposed to learn? </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Glasbergen puts forward a model of learning for impact assessment </li></ul><ul><li>• Technical learning, which involves searching for technical solutions to fixed objectives; </li></ul><ul><li>• Conceptual learning, which involves redefining goals, problem definitions and strategies; and </li></ul><ul><li>• Social learning, which emphasises dialogue and increased interaction between those involved (distinct from the concept of social learning described in the psychology literature) </li></ul>Glasbergen, P. (1999). Learning to Manage the Environment. Democracy and the Environment: Problems and Prospects. In W. Lafferty and J. Meadowcroft. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar: 175-193.
  5. 5. <ul><li>Does this apply to HIA? </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Pilot study </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary analysis of data on 10 HIAs –31 interviews (collected for studies in 2007 and 2009) to see how people referred to learning </li></ul><ul><li>Free coding (thematic identification) </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Preliminary Findings </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Where learning was mentioned it was usually in terms of “other people’s learning”, i.e. other people gaining understanding of health impacts or the proposal being assessed, rather than personal learning </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Where learning was alluded to it emphasised better understanding of the connection between the proposal being assessed or related activities, and health </li></ul><ul><li>This often focused on mitigation or enhancement measures </li></ul><ul><li>Technical learning </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Most learning discussed was technical in nature and focused on making changes </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>In a minority of cases (n=6, Total n=31 interviews) learning was described as interactive on participatory learning – coming together enabled a better understanding of health impacts but also ways of working and facilitated other ongoing work. </li></ul><ul><li>Social learning </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>There was almost no recognition of conceptual learning, though it was evident when there were disagreements about what the goals of the HIA were </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. whether the role of the HIA was to suggest markedly different alternatives or just to make predictions and to suggest mitigation measures </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Does this mean that opportunities for considering alternatives within HIAs are being lost? </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Alternatives are not all the same: </li></ul><ul><li>End of pipe alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Area alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Size alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Technological alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Institutional alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Goal alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Without conceptual learning we won’t see the final two </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Thai Health Public Policy Foundation (2007) A Training Manual for Health Impact Assessment: Bangkok. </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul><ul><li>Whilst HIAs are clearly resulting in learning further research is required to describe the nature of the learning and the mechanisms by which this occurs </li></ul><ul><li>There’s also value in being explicit about what you hope to learn and what role alternatives will play – this helps to scope the assessment and may minimise conflict </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>More information </li></ul><ul><li>hiaconnect.edu.au </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>

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