Rethinking Environmental Protection: Meeting the Challenges of a Changing World

Table 1. Considerations, information sources, tools, and approaches for framework elements.
Considerations and types of information Example tools and approaches
Step 1 – Formulate the problem holistically
  • Systems context: social, environmental, economic.
  • Values and goals of vested partners.
  • Spatial and temporal dimensions.
  • Interdependencies, interactions, unintended and cumulative effects.
  • Uncertainties, knowledge gaps.
  • Complexity versus sufficiency.
  • Conceptual model (Suter 1999).
  • Structured decision-making (Gregory et al. 2012; Yee et al. 2015).
  • Bayesian Belief Network (Rehr et al. 2014).
  • Health Impact Assessment (NRC 2011).
  • Framework for Human Health Risk Assessment to Inform Decision-Making (U.S. EPA 2014b).
Step 2 – Gather and synthesize diverse information
  • Socioeconomic status; health and cultural resources.
  • Local knowledge, traditions and practices, legacy land usage.
  • Built environment design and level of services.
  • Existing natural and anthropogenic hazards.
  • Beneficial “green” exposures and natural buffers from hazards.
  • Spatial overlays, future trajectories, opportunities, and risks.
  • C-FERST (Zartarian et al. 2011).
  • Smart Location Database (Ramsey and Bell 2014).
  • EnviroAtlas (Pickard et al. 2015).
  • Eco-Health Relationship Browser (Jackson et al. 2013).
  • Environmental Quality Index (U.S. EPA 2014a).
Step 3 – Develop and assess options
  • Understand full consequences of potential decisions or policies.
  • Consider stakeholder, community priorities and concerns.
  • Assess benefits, risks, trade-offs, and costs (monetary and nonmonetary) for different scenarios.
  • Estimate distribution of impacts (positive and negative) across vulnerable populations and life stages.
  • Consider population vulnerability versus individual risk.
  • Identify feasible, actionable, near- and long-term actions that mitigate negative impacts/consequences and promote sustainability and resilience.
  • 3VS (Fiksel et al. 2014), HYGEIA (Phillips et al. 2014), DASEES (Yeardley et al. 2011).
  • Structured decision-making (Gregory et al. 2012; Yee et al. 2015).
  • Health Impact Assessment (Gottlieb et al. 2011).
  • Eco-Health Relationship Browser (Jackson et al. 2013).
  • Human health and ecological risk assessment (
  • Environmental justice analysis (e.g., EJ Screen, EnviroAtlas, C-FERST).
  • Community engagement.
Step 4 – Implement sustainable solution(s)
  • Select suite of actions to implement preferred solution(s) (e.g., policies, programs, interventions, preventions, etc.) to work toward outcomes.
  • Include short- and long-term actions as appropriate.
  • Communicate science and evidence-based solutions to stakeholders, decision-makers, communities.
  • Ensure transparency and translation.
  • Empower communities/people with knowledge, tools, and data.
  • Eco-Health Relationship Browser (Jackson et al. 2013).
  • HYGEIA (Phillips et al. 2014).
  • Framework for Human Health Risk Assessment to Inform Decision-Making (U.S. EPA 2014b).
Step 5 – Monitor and evaluate results
  • Evaluate if approach provided sufficient information to identify, discriminate amongst, and implement solutions.
  • Identify key indicators or data sets to reflect changes in environmental conditions or human health and well-being.
  • Consider unconventional data sources to inform monitoring and evaluation.
  • Pinpoint key questions or information from problem formulation that can inform scientific questions for evaluation.
  • Assess goals and values affected by solution alternatives and determine which can be used to inform end points or indicators for evaluation.