Transportation and Health Toolkit

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A vision of healthy communities cannot disregard or devalue transportation. A healthy community is one in which people have access to healthy foods, feel safe, have opportunities for physical activity, breathe clean air, have access to gainful employment and feel connected to opportunity. Transportation is access, thus, transportation is opportunity.

Transportation significantly effects health through traffic crashes, air pollution exposure, access to healthy food, access to physical activity, and economic opportunity, which are only a few of the implications. 

Effective transportation policies are key to improving the health of communities and their residents. Transportation planning and projects that connect low-income communities to opportunity and basic goods and services, while always prioritizing public transit and non-motorized transportation holds enormous potential for addressing many of our nation’s most pressing societal problems. Transportation solutions for public health are shared solutions which can create social and economic equity, benefit the environment, and improve the economy. These benefits are long-term and must be prioritized for this nation to remain economically competitive, have a healthy population who is able to participate and produce, and have a sustainable environment for generations to come.

Health advocates are beginning to recognize the importance of getting involved in transportation planning and policy to ensure the health implications of such work are considered.

Transportation advocates are also interested in better understanding the intersection of health and transportation. Data regarding health and equity outcomes is compelling, and can help inform policy proposals and transportation decision-making. Additionally, working across disciplines presents an opportunity for a new cadre of advocates to join and provide support for healthier transportation solutions.

This toolkit will help health advocates better understand transportation issues and their related health connections, and help inform transportation advocates on the importance of health in their work.

Inside the Toolkit

Crafted by researchers and national experts, this toolkit presents an overview of transportation policy and planning, the connections between transportation, health and equity as well as policy opportunities to create healthy communities of opportunity. The content of this toolkit is compiled of numerous sources including two publications written and edited by PolicyLink and Prevention Institute, and commissioned by the Convergence Partnership: Healthy, Equitable Transportation Policy: Recommendations and Research, a compilation of research and recommendations written by advocates and academics in the fields of transportation, public health and equity. Each chapter can be found in various subsections of the kit. A synthesis of the book is presented in The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Transportation Reform in America.

Also included are presentations and materials originally prepared for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conference, Linking Transportation Policy and Public Health, in November 2008. For more information on the conference, including the goals and the agenda, click here. 

While information in this toolkit is useful for local, regional and state efforts, much of this material's focus is federal transportation policy. The federal surface transportation bill, a bill with hundreds of billions of dollars of investments, passes through Congress every six to seven years, sets federal transportation policies and provides funding for state and local projects. A new bill will be developed within two years making this time critical to ensure health is considered in the decision-making process.

For most people, federal policy seems removed from day-to-day life in their communities. But the federal surface transportation bill is a critical determinant of how our communities are formed, how they grow, and what types of transportation choices—if any—are available to us. Highways, rail systems, sidewalks, biking and walking paths, transit oriented development—all of these, and more—are shaped in large part by the federal transportation authorization. And federal transportation dollars are a major source of funding for states and metropolitan areas as they build new infrastructure and maintain existing transportation systems.