A Health Impact Assessment of Traffic and Transport in Ballyfermot

The World Health Organisation defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease". Using this broad definition of health, a wide range of economic, social and environmental policies as well as access to health services influence the health of communities. A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a means of looking at the potential health effects, both positive and negative, of these policies for example public transport policy. HIA can be undertaken in varying levels of detail, as a rapid process or as a more in-depth study and it can be applied to programmes or projects as well as policies. Ideally HIA should be applied before the policy, programme or project is carried out to ensure that steps are take at the planning stage to maximise the positive and minimise the negative effects, particularly in those most likely to experience the negative effects.

In 2003 the Department of Public Health at the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) obtained funding from URBAN II in Ballyfermot to carry out an in-depth "Health Impact Assessment of Traffic and Transport in Ballyfermot". This was against a background of public perception that levels of air pollution, which had been a problem in the 1980s due to the burning of smoky coal, had risen again, this time most likely due to increased traffic in the area. The project was managed by a Steering Committee, which included representation from ERHA and the South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB) which serves Ballyfermot, Dublin City Council (DCC), URBAN II with representatives from the local community, the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, and an external consultant. 

The project aimed to conduct a HIA on transport initiatives in the Ballyfermot area, and to use the findings and recommendations of the HIA to:
- Influence the implementation of future transport policy including road safety initiatives in the Ballyfermot area.
- Inform a review of the DCC Road Safety Plan.
- Provide a health focus to an Air Quality and Noise Monitoring Project being carried out at the same time by DCC and funded by URBAN II.
- Influence future health service development and delivery in the Ballyfermot area. It was expected that the project would also:
- Stimulate co-operation across the different sectors around initiatives which promote activity, such as cycling and walking.
- Engage the community to actively participate in decision-making by working in partnership with the statutory sector to influence planning and service development in the Ballyfermot area.
- Promote understanding of the relationship between transport and health.
- Develop learning around the practice of HIA.

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