Editor's note: This page was updated on Sept. 15, 2020, to provide a link to the project’s health impact assessment toolkit and on April 7, 2021 to add a link to A User’s Guide to Legislative Health Notes.
The Health Impact Project launched a two-year pilot project in January 2018 to help lawmakers learn the potential health implications of proposed legislation and policies. When invited by committee or legislative leadership, the project works with participating states and localities to create health notes, which provide brief, objective, and nonpartisan summaries of how proposed legislation could affect health. The notes draw from the best available peer-reviewed research, scientific data, and public health expertise to help legislators understand the connections between decisions in a variety of sectors and the health of their constituents.
Health notes can be developed within a short time frame, enabling their use during the legislative process. They describe both positive and negative effects—such as changes in asthma rates or physical activity—and explain how the measures could affect issues that strongly influence health, including education, employment, and housing. Health notes also consider the context of the legislation and include available local data to illustrate its potential impacts on specific populations, locations, and programs. They are not intended to provide a cost-benefit analysis or to support or oppose legislation. Instead, the aim is to provide legislators with data to support decision-making. Each note describes the evidence and categorizes its strength.
Evidence shows that decisions made in sectors outside public health and health care—such as education, housing, and employment—can have profound and lasting effects on the factors that shape health and health outcomes. The goal of the health note is to help policymakers identify the potential and often-overlooked connections between these various sectors and health. Findings can also be used between legislative sessions to conduct more research on legislative topics. Finally, health notes can help the public to better understand how specific bills or amendments might protect, promote, or harm health.