Category Archives: Transportation
>>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.”
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 more on how transportation can impact health.
It has been a busy month for the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Car safety innovations released by the organization in just the last few weeks include:
- A free app to help consumers find the safest cars when buying or renting, as well as nearby sites for car seat installation services and checks.
- New guidelines for auto-makers to help reduce the use of electronic devices while driving, and with that reduce the number of people killed and injured by distracted driving every day. A recent NHTSA survey found that 600,000 drivers talk on their cell phones or use electronic devices at any given daylight moment. More than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to NHTSA data.
- A reminder that during the spring and summer highway construction kicks into high gear and drivers need to pay attention to road changes and warnings. In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 587 people died in highway work-zone fatalities—an increase of 11 fatalities over 2010.
There’s good reason for NHTSA’s steady supply of information and action. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has designated the high motor vehicle injury rate as a winnable battle, shows that in the United States, motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of death for people age 5 through 34.
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?
The American Public Health Association and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership have joined together to create an active transportation primer, Promoting Active Transportation: An Opportunity for Public Health.
The goal of the primer is to provide public health practitioners with critical background information on the value of active transportation, such as walking, bike riding, jogging and running to help reduce obesity, transportation expenses and the environmental impact of cars and buses in communities. The primer authors say educating public health leaders about active transportation can affect how transportation is built in communities, regions and states, and engage stakeholders to find effective calls for action.
New federal transportation legislation became effective this month and includes opportunities for public health practitioners to take active roles in moving active transportation forward in their communities including:
- Safe bicycling routes
- Improved sidewalks
- Multi-use pathways
>>Bonus Links: Check out a Q&A with Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Also read a NewPublicHealth interview with Michelle Windmoeller, assistant director of the PedNet Coalition, which promotes active transportation in communities.
The National Prevention Strategy is a national effort engaging 17 federal agencies to develop cross-sector strategies to reduce preventable illness and disease and improve Americans’ health. The goals and actions of the Strategy were in full force last week at a roundtable on the intersection of health and transportation, convened by the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was also communicated nationwide in a blog post by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
From Secretary LaHood’s post:
We know that the transportation choices we make play an important role in building and maintaining healthy communities. For example, safer roadways and traffic patterns reduce crashes. Streets where walkers and bikers are protected from motor vehicles encourage people to get more exercise as part of their daily routines. Increasing the transportation options available in a community helps reduce congestion and air pollution even as it ensures that communities have access to necessary services like full-service grocery stores and doctors’ offices.
Faces of Public Health is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth featuring individuals working on the front lines of public health and helping keep people healthy and safe.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year 1.3 million people are killed and 20 to 50 million are injured in car crashes around the world. Most of the crashes happen in low- or middle-income countries, and 25,000 of the deaths are among tourists. In fact, nearly half of medical evacuations back to the United States, which can cost $100,000 or more, are the result of a car crash.
According to the CDC, reasons for an increase in crashes in foreign countries include:
- More people driving cars and other motorized vehicles
- Poorly maintained roads
- Insufficient traffic laws and poor enforcement in some countries
- Insufficient emergency response capabilities in some countries
Rochelle Sobel knows the worst possible outcome of these crashes first hand. She founded the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) in 1995, after her son, Aron, was killed in a bus crash in Turkey along with 22 other passengers from many countries, just two weeks before his graduation from the University of Maryland Medical School. The bus Aron was traveling on was speeding down the wrong lane of a narrow, poorly maintained road with no guard rail. The bus hit oncoming traffic and plunged down an embankment, landing on its side. Emergency medical crews were slow to respond, likely a factor in at least some of the deaths. After the crash the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey recommended the creation of a road safety organization to protect both American citizens abroad and residents of countries around the world.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Rochelle Sobel about ASIRT.
NewPublicHealth: ASIRT was started out of personal tragedy, the loss of your son Aron, in a bus crash in Turkey. How did you get started?
Rochelle Sobel: The first thing I did was talk to the U.S. embassy in Ankara, and I asked them if they could please tell me when such crashes occur again, and they said, “Mrs. Sobel, we’d be calling you constantly.” That led me to understand that this is indeed a health issue that was not getting the kind of public attention that it deserved. So I started to call different organizations, and unfortunately, it was not yet recognized as a health issue. So we decided to become the organization that would bring attention to the issue. We got help from the embassy; we got a lot of help from the State Department. We asked the State Department to start collecting data on the numbers of Americans who die abroad in road crashes by country, and they discovered that it was the single greatest cause of death for healthy Americans traveling abroad.
NPH: Is that still the case?