Health Impact Assessments (HIAs)
he purpose of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is to provide decision-makers with better information about how choices they are considering will likely affect health outcomes.¬† HIAs bring together scientific evidence, health expertise, and stakeholder input so they can all be factored into the decision-making process.¬† More information about this process is available here.
Recent HIAs in Omaha/Douglas County
The Douglas County Health Department and its local¬†partners¬†have recently completed HIAs on: 1) the Deer Park neighborhood redevelopment initiative in south Omaha; and 2) street connections between new real estate developments and existing neighborhoods -- primarily in west Omaha.
Deer Park HIA
The HIA found that approximately 125 current residents of the Deer Park neighborhood will experience direct health benefits because the City of Omaha's planned housing improvements will reduce exposures that cause poor birth outcomes, lead poisoning, asthma, and injury. ¬†The HIA also found that the level of investment being made by the City and its partners is likely to trigger ripple effects in Deer Park that will improve the health of the 3,500 residents in the focus area through increased housing investment, fewer code violations, and reduced crime. ¬†To create a stronger trajectory for Deer Park and ensure health improvements continue into the future, the HIA recommends that the City, its partners, and Deer Park residents define how to catalyze stable real estate investments during the two year initiative.
Neighborhood Connections HIA
Building streets connections into an existing neighborhood is frequently controversial. ¬†The HIA found that common ground exists between neighborhood residents and the City of Omaha for 1) keeping automobile trips on the streets where they belong -- local trips on local streets and regional trips on arterials -- and 2) reducing speeding in neighborhoods. ¬†Focusing on these two areas would project neighborhood residents from injuries while increasing physical activity and decreasing air pollution and traffic congestion. ¬†Stronger guidance from the City of Omaha to developers on how and when to engage neighborhoods effectively, as well as a citizen's guide to the development review process, would reduce stress experienced by nearby residents.
Prior HIAs in Omaha/Douglas County¬†
Downtown Omaha Parking HIA
A recent study found that Omaha is only using 53% of its downtown parking -- leaving over 18,000 parking spaces empty even at peak times. ¬†Despite the overall abundance, circling to find a parking space still occurs, especially in the Old Market, creating a perception that downtown Omaha needs more parking. ¬†The Health Impact Assessment found these parking management challenges create unnecessary health consequences through increased stress, added air pollution, and sedentary behavior. ¬†Plans to adjust parking rates and prioritize shared parking would better protect the health of the 20,000+ people who park in downtown Omaha each day while also improving the current parking challenges.
Prospect Village HIA
Facing diminishing federal funds, the City of Omaha focuses its neighborhood revitalization efforts on one neighborhood at a time. ¬†The focus neighborhood for 2014 and 2015 was Prospect Village in north Omaha. ¬†This effort was important because it represented the first time that the City of Omaha used a holistic approach that combines supportive services for neighborhood residents with the City's traditional housing improvements.
The HIA is focused on how to sustain improvements made to property maintenance, social connections, and recreational access after the City moves to the next focus neighborhood.
Crossroads Redevelopment Area
Crossroads Mall sits at one of the busiest intersections in Omaha; yet, it is 70% vacant.¬† Slated for redevelopment by a new owner, the City of Omaha has approved the Crossroads Area Redevelopment Plan, which puts forth a vision of a pedestrian-friendly district that would include the mall site and the surrounding area.
Following a meeting to get nearby neighborhood residents' input, DCHD studied the health effects of different approaches to street design, greenspace, and parking.¬† A Neighborhood Wish List and Visual Preference Report were created during the meeting with neighborhood residents. ¬†
Cole Creek - Due to extensive flooding in 1999, 40 properties in the floodplain of Cole Creek were purchased through a voluntary buy-out program created by FEMA, the City of Omaha, and the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District (NRD).¬† Houses on these properties have been removed and they are now City-owned vacant lots.
The Cole Creek HIA explores potential uses for these vacant lots that would improve the health and well-being of nearby residents or at least how these lots could be maintained at a stable level so they don't lead to neighborhood deterioration.
Adams Park - a 68 acre green space located near 30th and Bedford - is a focus of current¬†revitalization efforts in North Omaha.¬†¬†The¬†HIA¬†helped inform the Omaha¬†Parks¬†Department on how¬†the planned¬†renovation to Adams Park -- especially the creation of an urban farming and community¬†gardening center -- could create a better food and fitness environment for residents. ¬†
24th Street Road Diet
The City of Omaha is proposing including a center turn lane on¬†South 24th Street from Leavenworth to L Street (see below).¬†¬†This type of change, which involves¬†going from four lanes to three,¬†is commonly called a road diet.¬† The HIA found that the top concerns for¬†South Omaha residents¬†(making it safer to cross the street and decreasing speeding) would be improved through a road diet.¬† The HIA also¬†found that¬†a road diet would¬†likely prevent 50 crashes per year while still handling the same volume of traffic.
Walkable Mixed-Use Neighborhood - Recently community¬†planning efforts have found that¬†Omaha's quality of life could be improved if residents had viable transportation options¬†other than driving exclusively.¬† As a result, the¬†City of Omaha Planning Department is considering creating a¬†zoning classification¬†for¬†walkable mixed-use neighborhoods and requested an HIA on how this zoning might¬†affect the health of current and future Omahans.¬†¬†The HIA¬†found that research shows a strong connection between how a neighborhood is designed and how much people walk.¬†¬†The HIA¬†also found that several cities are working to create¬†"20 minute neighborhoods" where¬†people¬†can easily walk to¬†the places they want¬†to go.¬†
Technical Assistance HIAsDCHD also¬†provided technical assistance for two other local health departments in Nebraska -- South Heartland District Health Department and West Central District Health Department -- to complete their first HIAs. ¬†Their HIAs were on a¬†Nuisance Abatement Program¬†and a¬†Mobile Home Ordinance¬†respectively.