Category Archives: Transportation

Oct 22 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: October 22

GAO Recommends FDA Set Schedules for Decisions on New Tobacco Products
The General Accounting Office issued a report yesterday recommending that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) establish performance measures for the Center for Tobacco Products that include time frames for making decisions on the approval of new tobacco product submissions. The FDA has had authority over tobacco for more than four years, but a backlog remains on new tobacco products the agency must approve. New tobacco products applications submitted to the agency include devices that may deliver less nicotine to people who smoke.  In a response to a draft of the GAO report, the FDA noted that the GAO report recognized that “the length of time from the end of jurisdiction review to the end of completeness review decreased from 8 months in FY2011 to 2 months in FY2012. This constitutes considerable progress and is a reflection of CTP’s ongoing commitment to shortening review times.” Read more on tobacco.

American Heart Association: Unlock School Gates
A new policy statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), published in the American Journal of Public Health, says school districts can increase physical activity among children and young adults by opening playgrounds, gyms and playing fields to the community outside of school hours, especially in low-income areas.  AHA recommends that school districts enter shared-use agreements with community organizations to allow supervised activities such as sports leagues and unsupervised playing on school grounds. When previously locked schoolyards in two lower-income communities in New Orleans were opened and activities supervised, children’s outdoor physical activity was 84 percent higher than in a community with closed schoolyards, according to research cited in the statement. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey finds that 61.6 percent of 800 school districts surveyed have a formal agreement for use of their facilities. Increasing shared use agreements is a key goal of Voices for Healthy Kids, a collaboration of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to reverse the current levels of childhood obesity by 2015. Read more on physical activity.

DOT Announces Funding to Improve Transit Safety and Preparedness
The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced the availability of $29 million in research funds for innovative projects to help transit agencies strengthen operational safety; better withstand natural disasters and other emergencies; and improve emergency response capabilities. “For the first time in FTA’s history, we’re calling on the transit industry, the private sector, universities and others to work with us to develop and implement innovative solutions…bringing transit facilities into a state of good repair,” said Federal Transit Administration (FTA) head Peter Rogoff. “This will translate into real-world improvements…ranging from reducing transit-related injuries to making transit systems less vulnerable to flooding and severe weather.” Funding proposals will be considered in three areas: operational safety; resiliency; and all-hazards emergency response and recovery. Read more on transportation.

Oct 21 2013
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Study: Pedestrian, Bicyclist Deaths from Distracted Driving Keep Climbing

A large number of bikes parked on a street.

Although the overall traffic death rate is dropping, the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by distracted drivers in the United States is climbing, according to a new study in Public Health Reports.

Researchers utilized the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to find crashes on public roads from 2005 to 2010 that led to at least one death, finding that pedestrian deaths jumped to 500 from 347. The number of bicyclist deaths rose to 73 from 56, with a peak of 77 in 2008. They also found that distracted drivers were three times more likely to hit pedestrians on road shoulders and 1.6 times more likely to hit them in marked crosswalks.

“The problem is that pedestrians and cyclists have little protection on the roadways,” said study author Fernando Wilson, PhD, associate professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, adding, “Evidence suggests that separating non-motorized travel from motorized travel, through bike lanes or other redevelopment efforts, could greatly reduce deaths.”

The study’s authors concluded that new and better policies are needed to stop this growing public health problem. They hope that the findings—particularly the demographic findings—can help advocates and policymakers determine exactly what these policies should be.

For example, the pedestrian victims are more likely to be:

  • Women
  • Older than 65
  • Physically impaired
  • On the road shoulder
  • Hit during the day

Bicyclist victims are more likely to be:

  • Women
  • White
  • Riding in the morning
  • On the road shoulder
  • In a rural area

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program.

Sep 24 2013
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Second Annual National Health Impact Assessment Meeting: NewPublicHealth Q&A with Denise Provost

Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost Massachusetts State Representative Denise Provost

A key panel discussion during the National Health Impact Assessment (HIA) meeting will be on perspectives on health impact assessments with policymakers. Ahead of the meeting, NewPublicHealth spoke with State Representative Denise Provost (D), of Somerville, Mass., who will be one of the panel members.

NewPublicHealth:  How does it value governing, communities and population health by factoring health into policies made in other sectors?

Denise Provost: Governance should always take consideration of health. Legislators should actually embrace the first principle of the Hippocratic Oath, which is “first do no harm.” Sometimes by action or inaction we, as a nation, have pursued policies which we’ve discovered are not so good for health. Some are market forces that end up being reinforced by the actions of government. Looking out for the health impact on the population needs to be part of the long-term view of what we do. The particular discipline of looking at health through a health impact assessment is valuable for government because policy makers are often disparaged by scientists for governing by anecdote and that’s a real danger in the absence of quantitative analysis based on peer reviewed studies. The HIAs I’ve seen employ that kind of methodology.

The value of HIAs to communities is that they will in the long term—and even in the short- or middle-term—enjoy better health and fewer negative health effects from government decisions or government failure to reign in market forces that result in conditions that cause bad health as part of their business model.

NPH: Can you give us examples of HIAs in your community that have been innovative and beneficial?

Provost: We’re still in early days with HIAs but one, as contemplated by our 2009 transportation reform bill, has some fairly groundbreaking language in it that requires our secretaries of transportation, health and the environment to convene regularly and look at healthy transportation projects very broadly. They’re also charged with developing tools such as HIAs for use in the evaluation of transportation projects.

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Sep 17 2013
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Child Passenger Safety Week Promotes the Importance of Getting Kids in the Right Car Seats

Despite decades of outreach around car seat safety, car crashes remain the number one cause of death for children under the age of 12, according to the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also stark and troubling: more than 1,200 U.S. children ages 14 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010, and approximately 171,000 were injured.

What makes these statistics even more tragic is the fact that many of these deaths and injuries are preventable by following these simple edicts—put kids in the right seat and use it the right way. In fact, NHTSA has identified child seat safety restraints as the most effective way to protect young children in motor vehicle crashes.

Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for kids ages 1 to 4, according to the CDC. For children ages 4 to 8, booster seats cut the risk of serious injury by 45 percent.

This week is Child Passenger Safety Week. It also marks the launch of the new BuckleUpForLife.org, Cincinnati Children’s and Toyota’s community-based safety program designed to educate families on critical safety behaviors and provide child car seats to families in need.

The website features the “Making Safety a Snap” online tool—a series of quick questions and videos that demonstrate exactly how parents and caregivers can make sure their child has the right safety seat and is using it properly.

You can follow a live Buckle Up for Life Twitter Q&A starting at 2 p.m. today. Use the hashtag #BuckleUpforLife to join the discussion and have your child car seats questions answered by their experts.

Aug 30 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 30

NHTSA: Free VIN Searches Will Let Drivers Check for Safety Recalls
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will next year require that automakers and motorcycle manufactures provide free online search services for Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) so that consumers can search for information on uncompleted recalls. Consumers will also be able to use a central government site (SaferCar.gov) to determine whether a recall has been issued on a vehicle and whether the remedy has been performed. "Every day NHTSA is working for the American consumer to ensure that automakers and motorcycle manufacturers address safety defects and non-compliances, and that they also recall affected vehicles in a timely manner," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners—the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe." Read more on transportation.

Quick Change to Mellow Music Reduces the Risk of Road Rage
Smooth jazz could save your life—or at least keep you from doing something impulsive behind the wheel. According to a new report in the journal Ergonomics, switching to mellow music in a car can help drivers stay calm during stressful situations that could lead to road rage. Studies have already linked “upbeat” music to more aggressive driver behavior and “downbeat” music with more relaxed, safer behavior. However, the question before the researchers was whether a quick change or a gradual change to calmer music was more effective; they determined that drivers in both conditions would reach the same calm state, but drivers who changed the music abruptly would become calmer—and driver safer—sooner. The results show that "during high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective," concluded researcher Marjolein van der Zwaag, of Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, and colleagues in the Netherlands and at Stanford University in California. Read more on safety.

HUD: $12.8M in ‘Sweat Equity’ Grants to Create Affordable Homes
Through its Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded approximately $12.8 million in “sweat equity” grants to create at least 718 affordable homes. The four non-profit, self-help housing organizations that received the funds will work to reduce the cost of the homes for working families. “Sweat equity” is the increased value of a property due to restoration and upkeep efforts by the owners. “Today, we make another investment in the American Dream for hundreds of working families,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Using their own labor, along with sweat equity from armies of volunteers, these families will construct their own homes and become stakeholders in their own neighborhoods.” To qualify, a minimum of 50 sweat equity hours is required from a household of one person and a minimum of 100 sweat equity hours is required from a household of at least two people. The work can include landscaping, foundation work, painting, carpentry, trim work, drywall, roofing and siding for the housing. Read more on housing.

Aug 21 2013
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Back to School: Bus Safety

School students waiting by a school bus.

Kids and their parents aren’t the only ones who need to do some back-to-school prep as the fall term starts. A new survey of U.S. school bus drivers released by the National Association of Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NADPTS) last week found that more than 80,000 vehicles illegally passed a stopped school bus on a single day this past year. That translates to nearly 15 million violations during the 180-day school year, according to the association.

Laws and regulations can vary somewhat by state, but generally drivers must come to a full stop when they are behind or across the street from a school bus when it has its stop sign out and its lights are flashing. The NADPTS maintains a list of state laws regarding what cars must do when they see a stopped school bus.

No one organization keeps tabs on all children injured and killed by drivers who didn’t stop for a school bus, but three children were killed in such accidents in North Carolina alone last year, bringing that state’s total of children killed in such accidents to a dozen since 1998.

“There are nearly a half million school buses on the road each day in the United States,” said Max Christensen, NADPTS president, and, “any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is gambling with a child’s life.” According to the association, some states are adopting more stringent safety measures, such as improved motorist education, increased fines, and more law enforcement, including the use of photo evidence in court cases from cameras mounted on the sides of school buses.

>>Recommended Reading: To help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities related to school bus accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a school bus safety website stocked with information.

Aug 15 2013
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Child Car Seats: "Am I Doing This Right?"

The following post originally appeared on the Harvard Law School blog, Bill of Health, launched in September 2012 by Harvard's Petrie-Flom Center. The blog explores news, commentary, and scholarship in the fields of health law policy, biotechnology, and bioethics. This post examines the policies that impact proper use of child car seats and booster seats.

Author Kathleen West is an intern with the Public Health Law Research program. Her summer work has included researching and creating a comprehensive dataset on child restraint systems across the United States using LawAtlas, a gateway database to key laws aimed at improving our health or access to health care. Read more on LawAtlas.

As the world watched Prince William place the new royal baby, reluctantly snug in his car seat, into a vehicle a few weeks ago, my thoughts were not limited to, “Oh, how cute!” After two months researching and collecting a dataset to capture the U.S. laws and regulations for child passenger restraint systems, I also thought, “I wonder if he took a class and knows how to do that correctly?” Perhaps an odd thought, but misuse and faulty installation of child restraint systems is actually a major concern.

According to the CDC, proper restraint use can reduce the risk of death or injury by more than 50 percent. Yet, ongoing studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are finding that as many as 20 percent of drivers with child passengers are not reading any of the instructions regarding proper installation, while 90 percent of drivers of child passengers are reporting that they are confident that they are properly installing and using child restraint systems.

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Aug 13 2013
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Public Health Campaign of the Month: Werner Herzog’s “From One Second to the Next”

>>NewPublicHealth continues a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to info@newPublichealth.org.

“Oh my gosh, what have I done?” That’s the first question a man asked himself after he looked up from texting “I Love You” to his wife, to find that his car had crashed into a buggy carrying an Amish family and killing three of their children. That story, and three others, make up a new 36-minute video by acclaimed documentary film maker Werner Herzog, “From One Second to the Next.” The video was produced for AT&T and supported by Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, to show drivers of all ages what can happen when texting while driving. In the documentary, what happens is that five people die, two have their health ruined and bills pile up into the millions, and one sees his injuries put an end to his career.

Wireless firms hope to distribute the film to tens of thousands of high schools, safety organizations and through government agencies for maximum impact.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2011 alone. “When you get a message while driving, it’s hard not to pick up your phone,” said Herzog. “With this film, we want to help make people more aware of the potential consequences of that action.”

Watch the Werner Herzog film, "From One Second to the Next"

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Aug 7 2013
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Recommended Reading: The Intersection of Transportation and Public Health

Almost everything touches public health. From understanding care options to access to nutritious food to being able to breathe clean air—it all works together to prevent disease and promote healthy living. That includes the types of available transportation.

>>View NewPublicHealth’s infographic exploring the role of transportation in the health of our communities, “Better Transportation Options = Healthier Lives.”

The Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Health and Transportation (H+T) was formed in the Summer of 2011 to provide a variety of disciplines the opportunity to share and compare transportation-related health research in an academic environment. It’s a place where engineers, public health professionals, planners, epidemiologists, advocates and others can identify, advance and publish research that advances our understanding of transportation infrastructure and policies affect public health. [Editor’s Note: Read NewPublicHealth’s coverage of last year’s Transportation Research Board conference.]

The H+T Subcommittee’s areas of interest and study include sustainable and active transportation modes (e.g., walking, biking, transit); mobility and accessibility; safety; transportation-related air pollution and noise impacts; and social cohesion and other social, physical and mental health impacts.

State and local government across the country are already utilizing engineering and design solutions to improve public health in their communities, according to The Network for Public Health Law, which provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health and is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“In Massachusetts and Minnesota, transportation officials are exploring infrastructures that allow for ‘active transportation’—like walking and bicycling—which can help prevent weight gain and lower the risks of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In Washington and California, programs are incorporating transit-oriented development strategies to improve environmental health and access to healthy foods.”

>>Read the full story, “Two Worlds, One Goal,” and follow H+T on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

>>Read more on how transportation can impact health.

Jun 25 2013
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International Making Cities Livable Conference: UCLA’s Richard Jackson on Shaping Healthy Suburban Communities

"We have medicalized what is in fact an environmental-driven set of diseases," said Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, professor and chair of environmental health science at the UCLA School of Public Health, in a keynote presentation that energized and galvanized discussion among the diverse audience of city planners, architects and public officials at this week’s International Making Cities Livable Conference. This year’s conference focuses on bringing together a vision— across sectors—of how to shape healthy suburban communities.

Jackson, a prominent pediatrician and host of the “Designing Healthy Communities” series that aired on PBS, told an all-too-familiar story of a child who comes into a doctor’s office overweight and with alarming cholesterol and blood pressure results even at a young age. So the doctor prescribes behavior change: No soft drinks in the house. No screens in the bedroom. Exercise, do more, and come back in two months. In two months, what’s changed? Nothing. The food at school is still unhealthy, the neighborhood is still unsafe to play in and the family still uses the car to get absolutely everywhere because there is no other choice. The likely outcome for that child and so many others, said Jackson, is to end up on costly cholesterol medication just two months later when the child’s vital statistics continue to spiral out of control.

"It’s a 20th century idea that our minds are separated from our bodies, and our communities are separated from ourselves,” he Jackson, who reminded the crowd that the most critical health advancements in the last century took place because of changes in infrastructure, not medicine—primarily new sanitary standards to curb out-of-control infectious disease.

Now, said Jackson, “We’ve built America around the car” and we need a whole new set of infrastructure changes to re-build communities that offer better opportunities for health as part of everyday life. “The built environment is social policy in concrete.”

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