The Western Massachusetts Casino Health Impact Assessment (WMCHIA), a project funded by the Health Impact Project, is looking at the health impacts of a new casino to be located in Palmer, Springfield, or West Springfield. The WMCHIA is different from other types of casino related assessments. It is specifically meant to inform the casino licensing decision-making process through community input and scientific evidence, and to predict potential health impacts and develop recommendations.
Increasingly communities are using health impact assessments (HIAs) across the country to promote health considerations into decisions. HIAs have led to changes in project designs, budgeting priorities, affordable housing costs, and local hiring community benefits agreements, just to name a few examples. In general, HIAs help ensure that health and health inequities are considered in the decision-making processes by actively engaging and involving stakeholders in assessing potential direct and indirect health risks and benefits.
Partners for a Healthier Community, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and the City of Springfield’s Department of Health and Human Services, leads the WMCHIA. The project’s advisory committee includes leaders from each of the potential casino host communities, regional and community stakeholders, and HIA and research experts.
The WMCHIA aims to examine a number of health risks, including those potentially linked to gambling, such as substance abuse and mental health. It also will look at the potential health benefits of a casino, including those related to employment opportunities such as changes in employment status and access to health insurance. It seeks to raise awareness among decision makers and the public, so they can take action to improve health and mitigate negative health impacts, before final agreements or policies are adopted.