Originally published in the July 2019 edition of Streetsmart News (Vol 15).
Increasingly, transportation professionals are recognizing the health effects of transportation policies, plans, and projects. However, it’s also important to recognize that disadvantaged communities bear the burden of transportation’s adverse effects—indeed, there is a long history of damage to disadvantaged communities as a result of transportation plans and projects. Policies, plans, and projects that do not specifically address these health inequities are likely to continue to leave these groups behind. In public policy, the National Academies' report Communities in action: Pathways to health equity concluded that health equity is crucial and health inequity is costly.
So, how do you talk about improving health equity to decision-makers and stakeholders? An excellent National Academy of Medicine webinar provides some guidance. The Metropolitan Group, with support from researchers at Portland State University, developed and tested health equity messages that work across a political spectrum. One key take-away for conversation is that values always override facts. That is, people filter facts through the values they hold, so it important to build narratives based on shared values.
The health equity messages were built upon two shared values: 1) everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential and 2) foster strong and connected communities. The concept of targeted universalism informs the approach to the work, which means that we begin where the need is greatest. With the information contained in the webinar and messaging guide, you can begin a conversation with an elected official about building health equity into transportation policy. Below are some key ideas to communicate:
Listen to the webinar for more details about how these messages were developed and how they have employed in the field. Get the health equity in public policy messaging guide from Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.