Decision support for risk prioritisation of environmental health hazards in a UK city

Mae Woods*, Helen Crabbe, Rebecca Close, Mike Studden, Ai Milojevic, Giovanni Leonardi, Tony Fletcher, Zaid Chalabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is increasing appreciation of the proportion of the health burden that is attributed to modifiable population exposure to environmental health hazards. To manage this avoidable burden in the United Kingdom (UK), government policies and interventions are implemented. In practice, this procedure is interdisciplinary in action and multi-dimensional in context. Here, we demonstrate how Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) can be used as a decision support tool to facilitate priority setting for environmental public health interventions within local authorities. We combine modelling and expert elicitation to gather evidence on the impacts and ranking of interventions. Methods: To present the methodology, we consider a hypothetical scenario in a UK city. We use MCDA to evaluate and compare the impact of interventions to reduce the health burden associated with four environmental health hazards and rank them in terms of their overall performance across several criteria. For illustrative purposes, we focus on heavy goods vehicle controls to reduce outdoor air pollution, remediation to control levels of indoor radon, carbon monoxide and fitting alarms, and encouraging cycling to target the obesogenic environment. Regional data was included as model evidence to construct a ratings matrix for the city. Results: When MCDA is performed with uniform weights, the intervention of heavy goods vehicle controls to reduce outdoor air pollution is ranked the highest. Cycling and the obesogenic environment is ranked second. Conclusions: We argue that a MCDA based approach provides a framework to guide environmental public health decision makers. This is demonstrated through an online interactive MCDA tool. We conclude that MCDA is a transparent tool that can be used to compare the impact of alternative interventions on a set of pre-defined criteria. In our illustrative example, we ranked the best intervention across the equally weighted selected criteria out of the four alternatives. Further work is needed to test the tool with decision makers and stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Heaviside et al.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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