A recent review of the federal environmental impact assessment (EIA) process recommended that proposed projects should be evaluated based on sustainability pillars founded on environmental, health, social, cultural and economic considerations. For example, increasing temperatures are expected to increase heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and exhaustion, and may further worsen existing respiratory, circulatory, and nervous system medical conditions. The impact of increasing temperatures on the mining workforce and nearby communities have typically not been evaluated in impact assessments.
Communities’ susceptibilities to climate change hazards need to be considered in the EIA process to ensure that they can respond and adapt to both climate- and project-related impacts. One way to assess community health is through the conduct of health impact assessments (HIAs), as required by some Canadian provinces. HIAs identify and examine, in a balanced way, both positive and negative impacts of the proposed project on human health.
HIAs evaluate not only environmental factors, but also consider other factors that may affect the overall health of individuals and communities, including social, cultural and economic determinants of health. These health indicators are typically combined to produce a description of overall health that encompasses a more holistic approach. HIAs can be integrated into the federal IA process to identify and assess determinants of health that are vulnerable to both project- and/or climate-related impacts. HIAs are typically a collaborative process that hinges on stakeholder engagement. The findings of HIAs will help guide decision-makers and stakeholders through the process of review, monitoring and development of adaptive strategies to mitigate health risks.