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Human Health in the EIA Convention and the SEA Protocol

Project EIAs have rarely provided sufficient emphasis on such impacts, despite the fundamental importance of human health, focusing instead on the physical and biological environment (see below). The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) attempts to redress this imbalance by placing a special emphasis on human health, reflecting the Declaration of the Third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, London, 16—18 June 1999 (London Declaration on Action in Partnership), which included:
  • Cross-cutting action: 7. We will carry out environmental impact assessments fully covering impacts on human health and safety. We invite countries to introduce and/or carry out strategic assessments of the environment and health impacts of proposed policies, plans, programmes and general rules. We invite international financial institutions also to apply these procedures. There will be appropriate participation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and members of the public in the procedures set out in this paragraph.

  • Economic perspectives on environment and health: 45. We will develop, so far as is needed, our capacities to carry out economic analysis, in order to place this tool at the service of efforts to meet our commitments, and in particular to strengthen our national systems of strategic environmental impact assessment so as to include health concerns, and to ensure the integration of environment and health considerations into policies (paragraph 21(a)). We will promote the full internalization of environment and health costs, and the preparation of strategies for achieving this.

Human health has often been taken into account in EIAs and SEAs. However, “even when health aspects are addressed, assessments tend to estimate only the negative effects resulting from expected changes in [physical] environmental media, neglecting the effects of modifications on other health determinants, such as socio-economic ones, and the possibility of promoting health benefits”.[1] Health is dependent on both environmental and socio-economic determinants. [2] Further, the human health component of an EIA or SEA is not generally undertaken by a health professional, but rather by an environmental or social scientist, further diminishing the consideration of health.
For a more thorough discussion of health and the Protocol on SEA, see the Resource Manual, which includes a part oh health and where links to further resources may be found.
Links to resources for health in EIA

The European Environment and Health Committee (EEHC) acts as the steering committee for the series of ministerial conferences on environment and health, held by the World Health Organisation (WHO) every five years. The Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health was held in Budapest 2004. Summary report of the side event UNECE Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment: Implications for the health sector organized by the Czech Republic in cooperation with WHO, UNECE and the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe. The event was held in Budapest, 23 June 2004, as part of the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health (see summary report).
See also the 2010 publication by WHO/Euro on health and strategic environmental assessment .
[1] Dora & Racioppi (2002) — see note [2].
[2] The importance of socio-economic determinants of health is noted by, for example, Dora, C., & Racioppi, F. 2002. Health Impact Assessment as part of Strategic Environmental Assessment: moving the European policy framework towards a greater integration of health consideration in the development of policies, plans and programs, in Proceedings of Symposium at ISEE-ISEA Conference 2002 on Health Impact Assessment (HIA) - a maturing tool for decision-making PDF , Vancouver, Canada, 14 August 2002.