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Nationwide reports identify transportation policy as essential to improving health

Two reports out this week highlight growing awareness of the integral link between health and transportation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Transportation Recommendations acknowledge what we at Transportation for America have stressed for months: not only is our nation’s approach to transportation outdated and inefficient, it also takes a toll on our health and quality of life. Being stuck in traffic and living in places with no chance to safely walk or bike is having a negative impact on our health, and the CDC points out that many Americans yearn for greater physical activity and choices for how they get around. The CDC sees this link between health and transportation as both a challenge and an opportunity.

Expanding the availability of, safety for, and access to a variety of transportation options and integrating health-enhancing choices into transportation policy has the potential to save lives by preventing chronic diseases, reducing and preventing motor-vehicle-related injury and deaths, improving environmental health, while stimulating economic development, and ensuring access for all people.

They recommend a series of changes to federal transportation policy, all of which correlate closely with Transportation for America’s goals. These include:

  • Reducing injuries associated with motor vehicle crashes
  • Encouraging healthy community design
  • Promoting safe and convenient opportunities for physical activity by supporting active transportation infrastructure
  • Reducing human exposure to air pollution and adverse health impacts associated with these pollutants
  • Ensuring that all people have access to safe, healthy, convenient, and affordable transportation

The National Physical Activity Plan touches on many of these same subjects with an elegant and straightforward vision: “One day, all Americans will be physically active and they will live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity.” According to the Plan’s research, the average American spent 64 minutes per day in a vehicle, and nearly three-quarters feel they have no choice but to drive as much as they do, a figure echoed by Transportation for America’s poll earlier this year.

Improving active transportation “will require many individuals and agencies – transportation engineers, city planners, architects, schools, health professionals, government agencies at all levels, community advocates, citizens, and employers – to rethink the way we plan and develop our communities,” according to the Plan’s text, stressing:

More transportation options can help us achieve our recommended levels of physical activity, while lowering pollution rates and increasing access to essential destinations like grocery stores, schools, jobs and health care services.

For more information on the National Physical Activity Plan, visit their main site here, or the Transportation section – which includes tactics for each of the four strategies here. You can read more about the CDC’s transportation recommendations here.