Considering health and health disparities during state policy formulation: Examining Washington state Health Impact Reviews

Keshia M. Pollack Porter, Ruth Lindberg, Arielle McInnis-Simoncelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: As part of efforts to expand Health in All Policies (HiAP) in Washington State in the U.S., the Washington State Board of Health (BOH) received statutory authority in 2006 to conduct Health Impact Reviews (HIRs). HIRs analyze the potential impacts of proposed legislation and budget decisions on health and health disparities. Public health professionals who are aware of HIRs are interested in adopting a similar process in their states; however, there is limited information about HIRs, how they are perceived, and how they could advance HiAP. Methods: This research involved a descriptive analysis of a sample of HIRs and semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 17 key informants. For the descriptive analysis, all HIRs requested or completed between January 1, 2007 and April 1, 2016 that had a request form submitted by a legislator or the governor that was available in the BOH's online database were reviewed. Information was collected on several variables including the bill number and title, sponsor and political affiliation, and the sector to which the bill or budgetary proposal pertained. A purposeful sample of legislators, staff, advocates, and lobbyists who were involved with HIRs during the study period were invited to participate in semi-structured interviews. Topic coding was used to identify key themes from the qualitative data. Results: During the study period, 20 legislators requested 36 HIRs; 32 HIRs were completed. HIRs were requested for several bill topics, including education (11/36) and labor and employment (9/36). Legislators who requested HIRs felt they provided valuable data on health and health disparities for proposed bills. Individuals who were less supportive of HIRs perceived them as an advocacy or political tool. The main barrier to widespread use of HIRs in Washington was a lack of awareness among legislators. Conclusions: HIRs are one strategy to advance HiAP for state policy decisions. HIRs are a potentially effective tool for highlighting how legislative proposals and budgets positively and negatively impact health and health disparities. Future efforts should promote awareness and highlight shared benefits of HIRs among legislators and their staff, as well as their scientific integrity, methodological rigor, and objectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number862
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 3 2019


  • Disparities
  • Health in all Policies
  • Legislation
  • Public health
  • State policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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