Is the increasing policy use of impact assessment in Europe likely to undermine efforts to achieve healthy public policy?

Smith, Katherine E and Fooks, Gary and Collin, Jeff and Weishaar, Heide and Gilmore, Anna B. (2010) Is the increasing policy use of impact assessment in Europe likely to undermine efforts to achieve healthy public policy? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 64 (6). pp. 478-487. ISSN 0143-005X

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    Abstract

    European policymakers have recently become increasingly committed to using Impact Assessment (IA) to inform policy decisions. Welcoming this development, the public health community has not yet paid sufficient attention to conceptual concerns about IA or to corporate efforts to shape the way in which IA is used. This essay is a thematic analysis of literature concerning IA and associated tools and a related assessment of the European Union's (EU) new 'integrated' IA tool. Eight key concerns regarding IA are identified from the literature, many of which relate to the potential for undue corporate influence. Assessment of the EU's IA tool suggests that many of these concerns are valid. The findings raise crucial questions about the role of IA in public policy. By focusing mainly on the impact on the economy and business environment, the EU's current approach to IA may undermine healthy public policy. Those interested in public health need to acknowledge and respond to the problems associated with IA and evaluate the effects of 'integrated' IA tools on policy decisions affecting public health.