154139 Alaska Inter-Tribal Council's Health Impact Assessment Project: Description of a ground-breaking initiative and potential applications for U.S. Tribes

Monday, November 5, 2007

Aaron A. Wernham, MD, MS , Division of Community Health Services, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, AK
Rural Alaska Native communities depend heavily on the natural environment. The Inupiat people derive well over 50% of their nutritional needs from subsistence activities including hunting, fishing, and whaling. Subsistence provides not only nutrition, but the cornerstone of social, emotional, spiritual, and physical health for these communities. Plans for oil and gas development in Alaska's Arctic are expanding rapidly, and now threaten to encroach on the territory which supports the Inupiat people, with significant implications for their health and well-being.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which regulates U.S. environmental policy through the “Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process,” declares its fundamental purpose as stimulating “the health and welfare of man.” Federal regulations on NEPA's implementation make clear reference to the requirement to address human health. Yet as the implementation of this far-reaching legislation has evolved, EIS typically address human health marginally if at all.

In this session, we will report on a work by the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and the regional Inupiat governments which has led to the first U.S. effort to integrate a formal Health Impact Assessment into the EIS for proposed oil and gas development. We will discuss this effort in terms of how it can be applied by other U.S. Tribes to ensure adequate attention to public health in the permitting and regulation of industrial development, and and to advocate for equitable land-use decisions.

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the methodology and practical application of Health Impact Assessment (HIA) as a health policy tool for Tribes. Identify key federal environmental laws which can be used to address health concerns facing Tribes in the U.S. Develop local strategies for using HIA to advocate for environmental protection and public health.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.