Building Health Into Decision-Making: Shawnee Fossil Plant Study in Final Phase

Jul 14, 2014

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The Kentucky Environmental Foundation is awaiting final review before releasing their Health Impact Assessment for western Kentucky’s Shawnee Fossil Plant.

The study is part of the Health Impact Project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to model ways to assess health in non-traditional health fields. Foundation Health Coordinator Deborah Payne says the work focuses on energy and economy and was shaped by the communities the plant impacts.

“It’s a stakeholder driven process. And it’s a set of recommendations, it’s not a mandate," said Payne. "But the intention is to start building health into decision making when we typically use economics and policy to drive our decisions.”

Payne conducted several community and one-on-one listening sessions to develop the Health Impact Assessment officials could use when deciding the Shawnee Fossil Plant’s future. She found that the community is concerned about cancer and heart and lung health, which can be affected by the environment, but that "a clean environment is not necessarily a high priority for the community. On the other end, jobs and economics are a major priority." She thinks that there can be a balance between good jobs and a clean environment, it is just a matter of finding balance.

Payne says the Health Impact Assessment looks further than the absence of disease to determine health, looking at all components required for health and a good quality of life, from economics to education. Payne plans a public roll-out of the assessment in coming weeks.