The Roundup -

Health Department Administrator Co-Authors Peer Reviewed Publication


January 3, 2018 | View PDF

Richland County Health Department’s administrator Judith LaPan recently co-authored an article in the peer-reviewed journal Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, evaluating strategies for conducting impact assessments in areas affected by oil development.

The study is a case-study of Richland County’s experience implementing the Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnerships, or MAPP, process. The MAPP process is a framework for community needs assessment and strategic planning. Richland County has implemented the framework through the Communities in Action (CIA) process.

The CIA process has been in place for more than a decade, and is an umbrella program to organize local service providers, volunteers, and community groups focused on improving quality of life in Richland County. The focus of CIA through the MAPP process is to identify community needs, plan actions strategically, and build connections between people and organizations to implement strategies to improve quality of life.

The case study sought to answer the question: Does the MAPP process provide a useful template for impact assessment in energy boom contexts, and in what ways?

The authors first determined whether the MAPP process aligned with current impact assessment best practices. They found that both frameworks focus on the importance of relevant and actionable data, as well as efficiency, and both prioritize systems thinking.

In the evaluation of CIA, LaPan and co-authors conducted four activities: a Ripple Effect Mapping exercise with the CIA steering committee; stakeholder interviews with leaders who held prominent roles in CIA; Town Hall meetings around the county to solicit input on current issues and feedback on CIA; and a document analysis detailing the group’s history, process and achievements.

The Communities in Action process has been in place since 2005, when, in response to the changing economic atmosphere and emergence of oil and gas activity in Richland County, a group of 15 leaders formed the CIA steering committee. Steering committee members represent a breadth of community group, including the health department, library, hospital, and local governance, among other participants. The group conducted the first robust set of local assessment activities, which informed a “Quality of Life” profile in 2007. From then on, quality of life assessments were conducted regularly, and “State of the Community“ conferences were held to identify changing needs and priorities in the area.

The authors had several conclusions about the efficacy of the CIA process in the context of rapid oil development, including that the process helped to maintain the regular provision of services to the population during a time when most were “doing damage control”, during the height of the oil boom. The authors found merit in further investigating the MAPP process as an applicable model for evaluating the impacts of oil and gas development because of its alignment with best practices, opportunities for monitoring and mitigating issues, and relevance in negotiation challenges specific to oil and gas development.

To read the article in Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, visit


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