PATH (People Assessing Their Health)

PATH (People Assessing Their Health) is a network of organizations and individuals sharing ideas and resources to build healthy communities in northeastern Nova Scotia, Canada.

Since 1996, PATH has been using a community development approach called community health impact assessment (CHIA) to engage community people and organizations in the development of healthy public policy. CHIA is a population health strategy that allows people to estimate the effect that a program or policy will have on the well-being of their community.

The CHIA process can be used to examine a variety of things including policies, programs or services offered by governments (municipal, provincial or federal), institutions and community groups, and major infrastructure projects.

Although developed by communities in northeastern Nova Scotia to reflect local values and perspectives, the CHIA process and tools can be adapted easily for use by other communities.

How CHIA works

Community health impact assessment is used by community groups to examine any policy, program, project or service that will affect the health and well-being of the population. Since our health is determined by many factors, the programs and policies that we implement in our communities can directly and indirectly influence these factors and ultimately our health. CHIA enables groups to:

estimate the effect that a particular activity (policy, program, project or service) will have on the health of the community
identify ways to maximize the benefits (positive effects) and minimize the harm (negative effects) of that activity
Health impact assessment is not meant to determine if a policy is “right” or “wrong”. Rather, it helps to identify how a particular activity will enhance or diminish the many factors that the community considers to be important for its overall health and well-being.


The first PATH Project (1995-96) produced a manual called PATHways to Building Healthy Communities in Eastern Nova Scotia: The PATH Project Resource. This document has been widely distributed and the project is known nationally and internationally through several publications and presentations.

In 2002, the Antigonish Town and County Community Health Board (ATCCHB) created a CHIA tool that has been used by a variety of community groups to assess the impact of programs and polices on health in their communities. The work of the ATCCHB resulted in a new resource manual called PATHways II: The Next Steps – A guide to community health impact assessment.

Copies of these documents, as well as the various CHIATs that have been produced, are available in pdf by clicking on the “Helpful Resources” section of this web site. Copies in Word format (for adaptation) can be obtained by contacting the PATH Network at Antigonish Women’s Centre

Who can use it?

The PATH Network has promoted the use of community health impact assessment by local communities and, more recently, by the Antigonish Town County Community Health Board, people in the Town of Canso, and a group of Pictou County residents. It has become clear, however, that the process of community health impact assessment can be used by any group, organization or institution that is concerned about the impact policies or programs will have on the overall health of communities. The following are examples of organizations who have found the PATH process and/or the CHIA tool useful:

  • Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre (AWRC)
  • Antigonish Affordable Housing Society (AAHS)
  • Antigonish County Adult Learning Association (ACALA)
  • Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority (GASHA)
  • Association for Social and Health Advancement (ASHA), Kolkata, India

Next StepsX

The PATH Network is eager to work with other communities in Nova Scotia and beyond to expand the use of CHIA. The Network is looking for opportunities and resources to:

Promote the CHIA process as a means of enhancing citizen involvement in decision-making (at the community level or as part of wider consultations)
Provide training on how to use CHIA and how to develop a CHIA tool
Develop strategies and skills for workshop participants to bring the CHIA process back to their organizations and/or communities

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