Profiling provides a broad picture of the relevant demographic and health-related factors in the population affected by a proposed policy or project. Besides providing a baseline against which to measure potential health impacts, profiling helps identify particularly sensitive groups and disparities, and provides a context for interpreting the results of the assessment.
Profiling in HIA involves describing the size and composition of the population, typically based on census information. This will be supplemented with available survey and other data to describe the prevalence of important determinants of health (e.g. income, education, housing, environmental conditions, health behaviors, etc.) and health-conditions (e.g. asthma, overweight, mental health, etc.). Some preliminary profiling is conducted during the screening and scoping phases, with more in-depth profiling conducted during the assessment phase of HIA. Profiling rarely involves the collection of original data, but rather relies on the synthesis of existing data. Since important data for profiling may come from sources that are unfamiliar to public health professionals (e.g. tax receipts, employment density, and zoning uses), it is vital that HIA analysts work closely with experts in other sectors relevant to a particular HIA.
- Compile a profile of the areas and communities likely to be affected by the project using available socio-demographic and health data and information from key informants (Scott-Samuel et al, 2001).
- Describe key aspects of the health status and general make-up of the population, particularly in relation to factors that are believed to be susceptible to change or that may act a as indicators of anticipated health impact(s) (Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2001).
- Assess the nature and characteristics of groups whose health could be enhanced or placed at risk by the project efforts. Vulnerable and disadvantaged groups require special consideration (Scott-Samuel et al, 2001).