St. Johnsbury Eyes HIA Plan

HIABOARDST. JOHNSBURY- The town of St. Johnsbury is considering implementing a Health Impact Assessment when planning new construction projects. A Health Impact Assessment, or HIA, is a process that helps to evaluate the potential health effects of a plan, project, or policy before it is built or implemented.

According the HIA's website, an HIA can provide recommendations to increase positive health and minimize adverse health outcomes. HIA brings potential public health impacts and considerations to the decision-making process for plans, projects, and policies that fall outside the traditional public health arenas, such as transportation and land use.
At a recent St. Johnsbury planning commission meeting, Justin Barton-Caplin, a consultant at the St. Johnsbury district office of the Vermont Department of Health, was present to discuss HIA and how it would affect the town.  "It is a possible tool that decision makers can use in either evaluating projects and policies in a way to make sure that health considerations are incorporated into their decisions," Barton-Caplin said.
There are many factors to be considered when planning new projects, which is what the HIA would tackle.  "We know everything influences health, and so looking at the walkability, looking at how neighborhoods fit in terms of relationship to downtown, how they operate, what the transportation options are for folks living in these neighborhoods," Barton-Caplin told us.  
He also talked about other considerations such as "vulnerable populations or low income populations. Where do they live, where do they access services, what transportation do they have access to, as well as other populations such as people with disabilities and how their health is impacted by the built environment.  There is a whole range to consider."  
The HIA discussion is still in it's early stages in St. Johnsbury, but could be finalized in next year's by-laws section of the town report.  

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