HIAs: Data User Guide - Minnesota Department of Health

HIA: Data User Guide

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.  New to HIA practices? Get background information about HIAs

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

HIA 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 defines what the assessment will address, including:

  • Geographic and temporal boundaries
  • Health issues
  • Potentially affected populations
  • Data sources

Scoping helps create a viable work plan and timeline. This step is usually informed by the concerns identified during the stakeholder process, by professional, by expert opinion, and by relevant health literature.

For more information about engaging stakeholders, see Guidance and Best Practices for Stakeholder Participation in Health Impact Assessments.  For more information about conducting HIAs, see MDH's Health Impact Assessment and CDC’s Health Impact Assessment websites.

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

  • Pathway diagrams: A central task of scoping is determining how the decision or project can impact health.  Pathway diagrams, which illustrate the steps from decision to health outcome, help identify health effects and benefits.  Data can be used to assess these effects by providing baseline information about health status in a community, or by predicting effects and benefits from a policy, plan, or project.
  • Identifying research questions and data sources: another key task of scoping is identifying the research questions, data sources, and analytic methods that will be used. See an example of an HIA scoping worksheet from Human Impact Partners.


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

For example, HIA practitioners and communities may want to know more about asthma in a particular area.  The National Tracking Network can provide data about asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits at state and county levels to establish a baseline health estimate and provide information on the region of interest.  State and local tracking programs also may have asthma data at enhanced levels of geography, such as ZIP code. 

Assessment also may include projections to evaluate 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

Updated on an ongoing basis, Tracking Network data are especially useful for monitoring and evaluating actions and decisions over time.  For example, use Tracking data to evaluate progress pre- and post-implementation of the HIA decision or action.  Furthermore, Tracking Network data are developed to be nationally consistent which helps compare one area or population with another.

Return to MN Tracking: Health Impact Assessments.
Updated Thursday, February 09, 2017 at 09:46AM