Category Archives: Transportation policy
The Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council, is holding its annual meeting this week including a critical session later today that will bring together several subcommittees to talk about the intersection of transportation and health.
>>Read our coverage from last year’s Transportation Research Board meeting.
Ed Christopher, who is with the Federal Highway Administration Resource Center Planning Team and co-chair of the health subcommittee, says that over the last ten years people in the transportation sector have become more aware of the connections between health and transportation including physical activity, safety, air quality, equity, and access, but that collaboration is still in its early stages. “Health and transportation professionals often come from different scientific backgrounds and have separate institutional structures,” says Christopher. Today’s session bring together the health subcommittee along with several others including committees on policy, legal resources, safety and public transportation.
Christopher says the session will help “demystify” the connections between health and transportation, and identify promising opportunities for research and collaboration.
The keynote speaker at today’s session is Andrew Dannenberg, MD, MPH, an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and the Department of Urban Design and Planning in the College of Built Environments.
Dr. Dannenberg is also a consultant to and former team lead of the Healthy Community Design Initiative at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, where he works on activities related to the health aspects of community design including land use, transportation, urban planning, and the built environment. In advance of today’s meeting, NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Dannenberg about synergies between transportation and health.
NewPublicHealth: What is the intersection of health and transportation and why does it matter?
NewPublicHealth continues a series of conversations with local public health directors on the issues that impact their work and the health of their communities. Recently, we spoke with David Fleming, MD, MPH, public health director of Seattle and King County in Washington State. Dr. Fleming talked with us about how transportation innovation can impact the health and prosperity of a community.
>>Check out an INFOGRAPHIC on the connection between transportation and health.
>>Hear from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on how transportation impacts public health.
NewPublicHealth: How is transportation innovation making a difference in the health of communities in Seattle/King County?
Dr. Fleming: We’ve started with transit-oriented development such as increasing bike and walking paths, which provides opportunities for physical exercise for many folks that want to do it, but haven’t been able to. It draws a larger number of people into activities and helps them exercise routinely. And in addition to increasing physical activity, you’re also increasing safety, reducing injuries, increasing the social capital in the community, getting better connections between community residents and from an economic development standpoint, you’re creating jobs and increasing property values, and therefore, improving one of the underlying social determinants of health.
NPH: What other examples of transit-oriented housing and community development can you tell us about in Seattle/ King County and what have you learned from them?
The NewPublicHealth National Prevention Strategy series is under way, including interviews with Cabinet Secretaries and their National Prevention Council designees, exploring the impact of transportation, education and more on health. “Better Transportation Options = Healthier Lives” tells a visual story on the role of transportation in the health of our communities.
- Public transit users walk an average of 19 minutes getting to and from public transportation.
- Countries with lower rates of obesity tend to have higher rates of commuters who walk or bike to work.
- The risk of obesity increases 6 percent with every additional mile spent in the car, and decreases 5 percent with every kilometer walked.
- Lengthy commutes cost $100 billion each year in excess fuel costs and lost productivity.
- More than 30,000 people died in car wrecks in 2010.
- Strong seatbelt and child safety laws resulted in a 25 percent decrease in car accident deaths since 2005.
Also check out our previous infographic exploring the connection between education and health.
>>For more on transportation and health:
A new conversation with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood continues a series of interviews by NewPublicHealth with the heads of federal agencies that comprise the National Prevention Council, convened to partner across government to help create a healthier nation through the National Prevention Strategy.
The U.S. transportation system is a web of highways, bridges, roads, sidewalks, bike paths, trains, and buses that connect people to each other and to places where they work, learn, play, shop, and get medical care. This makes transportation a critical factor in the health and quality—as well as the economic viability—of life of communities. In addition to devoting significant resources and attention to improving the safety of motor vehicle-based transportation, the Department of Transportation and partners across the country are working to provide more transportation options that support walking and cycling and improve health.
>>Check out a new infographic exploring the connection between transportation and health.
Read the new interview with Secretary LaHood.
NPH: Who are some of the Department of Transportation’s partners on the intersection of transportation and health?
Secretary Ray LaHood: We’ve worked with communities all over America on their priorities for improving transportation, but also improving the quality of life in communities. We’ve worked with mayors, we’ve worked with transportation officials, and we’ve worked with advocacy groups. We’ve tried to take best practices in cities that have paid attention to the environment and quality of life in their communities, and lead by not only our own example, but by taking examples from leadership in communities where mayors and transportation advocates and some of our best partners have done extraordinary work on really improving health and quality of life by way of transportation.
We work closely with many different groups, not only here in Washington, but all across the country. For example, we have joined with other agencies for a project called Safe Routes to School that helps create environments where students can walk and bicycle to school safely by allowing children to pick routes to school that are safe for walking – so that their parents don’t have to drive them and so they don’t have to be on a bus. We have a great relationship with bikers all over America, and whenever I go into a community I often have opportunities to meet with the cycling advocates in communities.
We also work closely with advocates to make sure that children are in the right size child safety seats, and we partner with Mothers against Drunk Driving to get drunk drivers off the road. We have lots of advocacy groups and friends around the country who wake up every day and think about safety on the roadways, in vehicles, outside of vehicles, in public transportation.
NPH: How is the DOT working to help prevent injuries related to transportation, such as distracted driving?
Martin Fenstersheib, MD, MPH, director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department in California led a session on safe outdoor activity for kids and adults at the 2012 Public Health Law Conference. NewPublicHealth spoke to Dr. Fenstersheib about what is keeping our communities from safely getting outside to play—violence, blight and communities built for cars—and solutions grounded in evidence-based public health law.
NewPublicHealth: You presented at a key session on making outdoor physical activity opportunities safer. What makes this an important issue for you?
Dr. Fentersheib: Often when we talk about physical activity, we hear people say that all we need to do is convince kids to go outdoors. A lot of us then say, “when we were kids, our parents let us out of the house in the morning and we came back at nighttime and all was well.” There wasn’t any problem with that. But, of course, we’ve all become aware of safety as a barrier to outdoor physical activity. And the issue has to do with not only criminal or violence safety, but safe streets generally. Do cars in an area make it less safe for example? And, is our environment built in a way that it is safe for kids to walk to school? My presentation will be an overview of the benefits of physical activity, and what some of the barriers are.
We’ll also look at the legal side of the issue, including a study on mixed use land zoning. I think the bottom line is that safer neighborhoods will have more of a mixed use flavor so that you don’t have to go far to get to work or play or to recreational areas. In such neighborhoods, there are stores and other places for you to go, and you’re closer to public transportation. The data to be presented will show that the crime rates in those areas are lower than in pure industrial areas or areas where there isn’t mixed use. Mixed use is helping to improve the built environment in the communities in which we live by having more eyes on the street, by having people basically looking out for one another and be more of a community.
NPH: What are examples in Santa Clara of new plans to create safer outdoor spaces for children and adults?
Pre-teens living in states that require vaccinations for incoming middle school students are more likely to be immunized than those in states that simply require parents to receive information about the vaccines, according to a study in Pediatrics.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed school entry requirements in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the 2008-2009 school years and compared them to adolescent vaccination rates for three vaccines: TdaP, meningitis and HPV. Compared to states with no requirements, vaccination coverage was significantly higher for the meningitis (71 percent versus 53 percent) and TdaP (80 percent versus 70 percent) vaccines.
The Department of Transportation has announced a month-long web-based dialogue May 7 to June 8, to help facilitate discussion about local transportation needs, challenges and opportunities facing military veterans, wounded service people and military service members and their families. Military families, veterans and organizations that support them are invited to participate in the discussion to create options to improve access to transportation. Registered participants will be able to offer an idea, a comment or vote on ideas they see on the site. A public report will be issued after the dialogue period ends.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that at least sixteen people have been sickened by dry dog food made by Diamond Pet Foods that may be tainted by salmonella. Humans may have become infected by touching the food or a pet that ate the food. The company has recalled the products. CDC is advising that:
- Consumers should check their homes for recalled dog food products and discard them promptly. Contact Diamond Pet Foods for more information at (800) 442-0402 or www.diamondpetrecall.com.
- Follow tips listed on Salmonella from Dry Pet Food and Treats to help prevent an infection with Salmonella from handling dry pet food and treats.
- People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers. For sick animals, contact your veterinary-care providers.
The Weight of the Nation Conference, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, begins today. The goal of the conference is to provide a forum to highlight progress in the prevention and control of obesity through policy and environmental strategies, and is framed around five intervention settings: early care and education; states, tribes and communities; medical care; schools; and workplaces. Several key resources on obesity are being released in connection with the conference:
- A new book, The Weight of the Nation: To Win We Have to Lose, co-authored by Judith Salerno, Executive Officer of the Institute of Medicine, which looks at the forces driving the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and offers practical tips on weight loss.
- The book is a companion to a new HBO documentary, The Weight of the Nation, on obesity in the US, which debuts May 14 and was produced in association with partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
- On May 8 the IOM will release a report, Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, at the Weight of the Nation conference, which will recommend ways society can support individuals by making healthy choices easier.
A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that 80 percent of people using bike share programs in Boston and Washington, DC, did not use helmets. According to the researchers, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, helmet use is associated with decreased rates of head injury and mortality and decreases the risk of head and brain injury by 65 to 88 percent. Helmet use in the two bike share programs studied, as well as others, is not required in order to rent the bikes.
Blacks with HIV are much less likely to adhere to drug therapy than others with the disease, according to a University of Michigan study. Additionally, untreated depression may interfere with HIV/AIDS treatment for all low-income, HIV-infected patients, regardless of race. The one year study found that less than 30 percent of African-American HIV patients in the one-year study had optimal compliance with their drug therapy, compared with 40 percent of other HIV patients.
More than 66 percent of the 7,034 HIV-infected patients in the study were African-American and nearly half of them reported depression. However, the study also found that antidepressant treatment nearly doubled the odds of drug compliance among HIV patients of all races who reported depression. The study appeared in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The Department of Transportation has announced the first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk of in-vehicle electronic devices. The proposed voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information-gathering and navigation devices or any other functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle. The guidelines were released on the same day that the Governors Highway Safety Association released a study that found that deaths among 16 and 17 year old drivers in cars increased by 11 percent in the first 6 months of 2011, the first increase in eight years.
The guidelines were issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and would establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require visual or manual operation by drivers.
According to NHTSA, these guidelines are the first in a series that they plan to issue to address distractions in a car, including devices that require use of the hands or diversion of the eyes while driving.
The first set of guidelines includes:
- Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle)
- Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds
- Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view
- Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation
The Phase I guidelines were published in yesterday’s Federal Register and comments will be accepted for the next 60 days. Final guidelines will be issued after NHTSA reviews the responses.
An article in the New York Times about New York City’s bike share program, set to debut next summer, says that although a handlebar bell and rear lights will be standard issue on the rental bikes, helmets will not. Nor are helmets mandatory for adults in New York City.
What gives? According to the article, bikes helmets, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all riders since at least 1995, could be viewed as annoying or cumbersome by some and discourage them from biking—and its health benefits.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), bicycle-related crashes kill 900 people every year and result in over 550,000 emergency room visits.