Originally published in the February 2022 edition of Streetsmart News (V. 40)
ITE's Health and Transportation Committee has been busy this past year producing webinars and "Quick Bites" (something like a cross between a white paper and fact sheet) to help transportation professionals better integrate health into transportation. If you are looking for a quick, easy, and accessible way to learn about and communicate transportation and health, take a look at the these three Quick Bites finished in December 2021: Transportation as a Determinant of Health, Health and Co-Benefits of Active Transportation, and Transportation for Mental Health and Happiness.
The American Public Health Association Policy Statement has updated its policy statement, Improving Health through Transportation and Land Use Policies, to better address equity. The new policy statement, Ensuring Equity in Transportation and Land Use Decisions to Promote Health and Well-Being in Metropolitan Areas, using a social determinants of health framework to identify the pathways by which land use and transportation decisions impact health equity. Key issues include authentic community engagement, the legacy of redlining on economic opportunity and health, and transportation investments that have severed communities. Strategies and policies at federal, state, and local levels are recommended to address these inequities and improve health outcomes.
Vehicle electrification often gets promoted as the best strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the transportation sector. However, new research shows that active travel can not only better reduce GHG but also reduce traffic-related deaths as well as improve other health outcomes. In the journal article Health Benefits of Strategies for Carbon Mitigation in US Transportation, 2017-2050 (paywall), the health benefits of active transportation are compared to the electrification of cars as ways to decarbonize the transportation sector. Results showed that the active travel scenario avoided 167,000 deaths and gained 2.5 million disability-adjusted life years by 2050, monetized at $1.6 trillion using the value of a statistical life. Carbon emissions were reduced by 24% from baseline. Electric cars avoided 1,400 deaths and gained 16,400 disability-adjusted life years, monetized at $13 billion. These take-aways can be used to improve public health and urgently reduce carbon emissions in transportation by centering active travel in public policy.