Research by the Adler School of Professional Psychology’s Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE) showing how abandoned buildings can have a devastating effect on a community’s mental health is getting international attention.
The Institute’s groundbreaking work with one of Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods has been published in Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal (IAPA), an international peer-reviewed journal of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA).
The article, “Mental health impact assessment: population mental health in Englewood, Chicago, Illinois, USA,” is featured in the April 2012 issue of the journal. Authors Lynn Todman, Ph.D., ISE executive director; J. Sherrod Taylor, J.D., ISE faculty fellow; and ISE research associates Lauren Hricisak and Jill Fay describe their work to engage Chicago’s underserved Englewood community and study the mental health implications of a proposed amendment to Chicago’s Vacant Buildings Ordinance.
For years, governments have relied on environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to identify and help mitigate the impacts of major development projects on the natural environment. Health impact assessments (HIAs) have grown out of EIA practice to help governments identify how proposed public initiatives (e.g., policies, projects, programs, services) will affect physical health outcomes in communities.
Now, the ISE is advancing HIA practice to include more comprehensive and rigorous assessment of mental health impacts of government decisions. Mental health impact assessments (MHIAs) identify and evaluate the impact of public decisions on social determinants of mental health, such as housing, income, neighborhood conditions, safety, employment, education, and social inclusion/exclusion.
“We are pleased the international community is recognizing this very important practice,” said Todman, whose team has embarkeed upon another MHIA with the Englewood community that is expected to be completed in June 2012.
The IAPA article highlights how Todman and her colleagues conducted a four-month MHIA assessing the impact of a proposed amendment to Chicago’s Vacant Building Ordinance on the city’s Englewood neighborhood, including how they partnered with community groups and conducted focus groups and individual interviews with residents to identify how vacant buildings impact the mental health and well-being of community residents. Todman provided testimony based on the MHIA findings to city leaders, who ultimately passed the ordinance change in 2011 to hold lending institutions more responsible for the upkeep of properties they foreclose on.
The IAPA journal covers environmental, social, health and other impact assessments with a readership that spans more than 120 countries.