Programs and Initiatives in Communities - Health Impact Assessment Toolkit

Programs & Initiatives in Communities
Health Impact Assessment: Data User Guide

Link to PDF diagram of data available for health impact assessments.Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a process for evaluating the positive (helpful) and negative (harmful) public health impacts of a plan, project, or policy before it is approved, built or implemented.

Effective HIAs require high-quality data on topics that affect health including the environmental (transportation, land use, air quality) and the economic and social factors determined by where we live and work.

For more information about HIAs and how to conduct them, visit the Minnesota Department of Health HIA and the CDC’s Health Impact Assessment webpages.

The MN Tracking Program provides public health data and consultation to inform Health Impact Assessments (HIAs). dWe emphasize "health in allpolicies." This guide provides step-by-step instructions about how to access and use data from the Minnesota Tracking Program to conduct a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) using the Data Access portal.

Diagram of the 6 HIA steps using tracking network data. Tracking data may be used to inform any of the six steps for conducting an HIA, but this guide focuses on three specific steps:

  • Scoping - explore health and environment issues of potential interest
  • Assessment - assess a baseline for conditions, refine priorities, inform communities, make projections or estimates about trends
  • Monitoring & Evaluation - evaluate the effects of a decision, policy, or action over time; pre- and post-implementation


Scoping is usually informed by the concerns identified during the stakeholder process, by professional and expert opinion, and by relevant health literature. Scoping defines:

  • What the assessment will address
  • Helps create a viable work plan
  • Defines a timeline.

The Tracking Network can be useful for two specific parts of the scoping step:

  • Determining how the decision or project can impact health
    • Pathway diagrams: illustrate the steps from decision to health outcome and help identify health effects and benefits. 
    • Data: assess the effects by providing baseline information about health status in a community, or by predicting effects and benefits from a policy, plan, or project.
  • Identifying the research questions, data sources, and analytic methods that will be used

For examples of a pathway diagram or HIA scoping worksheet, visit the Human Impact Partners Tools and Resources webpage.


Tracking Network data may be used to evaluate the health effects and benefits of a plan, project, program, or policy by:

  • Assessing baseline health conditions
  • Identifying and characterizing vulnerable populations, health disparities, and health inequities
  • Evaluating the direction and magnitude of potential health effects due to changes in exposure or actions to protect health
  • Tracking data may be used in quantitative or qualitative assessments to make informed projections based on trends over time

Monitoring and evaluation

Tracking Network data are updated on an ongoing basis and are useful for monitoring and evaluating actions and decisions over time. 

  • Use Tracking data to evaluate progress pre- and post-implementation of the HIA decision or action. 
  • Compare nationally consistent Tracking data to other areas or populations.

How to find tracking data for HIAs

  • Complete the scoping step to define the geography, health issues, and potentially affected populations.
  • Based on the scoping information and the decision, action, or policy you are assessing, consider the near-term effects, modifying factors, and health outcomes (see data available diagram above).
  • Once you have identified effects, modifying factors, and health outcomes related to your HIA project, go to the MN Public Health Data Access portal.
  • Select the topics of interest by category or geography.
  • Download the data for the population and geography you need for your HIA project.
  • Do not see the data you need? Complete a custom data request.