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Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) motivate effective measures for safeguarding public health. There is consensus that HIAs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are lacking, but no study systematically focuses on those that have been successfully conducted across all regions of the world, nor do they highlight factors that may enable or hinder their implementation. Our objectives are to (1) systematically review, geographically map, and characterize HIA activity in LMICs; and (2) apply a process evaluation method to identify factors which are important to improve HIA implementation in LMICs. A systematic review of peer-reviewed HIAs in 156 LMICs was performed in Scopus, Medline, Web of Science, Sociological abstracts, and LILACs (Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences) databases. The search used PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines and covered HIAs across all type of interventions, topics, and health outcomes. HIAs were included if they reported a clear intervention and health outcome to be assessed. No time restriction was applied, and grey literature was not included. The eligible studies were subjected to six process evaluation criteria. The search yielded 3178 hits and 57 studies were retained. HIAs were conducted in 26 out of 156 countries. There was an unequal distribution of HIAs across regions and within LMICs countries. The leading topics of HIA in LMICs were air pollution, development projects, and urban transport planning. Most of the HIAs reported quantitative approaches (72%), focused on air pollution (46%), appraised policies (60%), and were conducted at the city level (36%). The process evaluation showed important variations in the way HIAs have been conducted and low uniformity in the reporting of six criteria. No study reported the time, money, and staff used to perform HIAs. Only 12% of HIAs were based on participatory approaches; 92% of HIAs considered multiple outcomes; and 61% of HIAs provided recommendations and fostered cross-national collaboration. The limited transparency in process, weak participation, and inconsistent delivery of recommendations were potential limitations to HIA implementation in low and middle-income countries. Scaling and improving HIA implementation in low and middle-income countries in the upcoming years will depend on expanding geographically by increasing HIA governance, adapting models and tools in quantitative methods, and adopting better reporting practices.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.