Prospective impact assessment of projects, programs and policies has occurred in Canada since 1974, when a federal Cabinet policy was developed to review the environmental impacts of federal decisions. Today, various types of impact assessment are practised in Canada and abroad, in order to identify the unintended effects of public- and private-sector initiatives on human health and/or on the environment.
The existence of a large variety of impact assessments has led to a certain amount of confusion (Rattle, 2009), as there are no definite separations between approaches. For example, Environmental Impact Assessments may (or may not) evaluate impact on human health or on the social determinants of health; Health Impact Assessments may (or may not) address issues of equity, while Equity-focused Health Impact Assessments explicitly evaluate this dimension.
The objective of this table is to clarify four different approaches that are used in Canada: Health Impact Assessment (HIA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Risk Assessment (RA). Clearly, this table does not account for all of the impact approaches being used today or all of the variants that may be found in the literature. However, it should provide a general sense of what four types of impact assessment practised in Canada try to achieve, and how.