Mental Health Impact Assessment

Building more equitable, healthy, inclusive communities

Building more equitable, healthy, inclusive communities

Mental Health Impact Assessment (MHIA) Study Released

Too often, government decisions are made without consideration of mental health implications, often harming communities in the long run. One well-known example is the decision to house low-income families in densely populated high-rise housing projects in Chicago—which seeded crime and violence that substantially undermined residents’ health and well-being.

The ISE pioneered the Mental Health Impact Assessment (MHIA) process to help ensure that public proposals — including legislative, policy and programmatic initiatives put forth by federal, state or local governments — are vetted for their impacts on the collective mental health and well-being of communities.


  • Expands on established Health Impact Assessment (HIA) practice by more explicitly integrating mental health considerations.
  • Expands beyond traditional HIA focus on planning, land use and built-environment proposals—to address a broader range of proposals in such areas as labor, education, social welfare, public safety and additional areas relevant to the needs of disadvantaged communities.
  • Encompasses a rigorous process and outcome evaluation.
  • Advances the concept of population mental health.

MHIA outcomes include:

  • Evidence-based findings and recommendations
  • Targeted community involvement in public decisions that impact community health/well-being
  • Broadened responsibility and accountability for population mental health
  • Increased awareness of the impacts of non-health decisions on population mental health
  • Improved community capacity for research, coalition building, organizing and advocacy;
  • Increased community cohesion and partnerships; and
  • Increased clarity in health equity impacts of public decisions.

In April 2013, ISE released results of the United States’ first MHIA, examining federal policy guidance on arrest records and hiring, and its impact on mental health of residents of Chicago’s vulnerable Englewood community.


Mental Health Impact Assessment: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Policy Guidance: A Mental Health Impact Assessment

Leading support for our development of the MHIA has been provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Pierce Family Foundation.

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