Creating a Healthier Commute: Active Transport

Nov 8, 2011, 3:35 PM, Posted by

The longer the commute, the worse the health outcomes (up to a point), according to a recent study published in BMC Public Health and summarized on

But a group of researchers and public health officials came together at last week's APHA Annual Meeting to talk about how commutes can actually make people healthier, through active transport. Active transport is just what it sounds like—getting from point A to B in a way that gets people moving (think: walking and biking, and even public transportation routes that encourage walking between stops and up and down stairs) rather than commuting in a sedentary way (think: driving a car).

S. Elizabeth Ford, MD, MBA, District Health Director of DeKalb County and Andrew Baker, AICP, Interim Director for Planning & Sustainability for the County, presented on efforts to turn DeKalb from a car-dependent neighborhood into a walkable community. These efforts were in response to data that found that obesity rates in DeKalb doubled between 1997 and 2006, and that over half of the residents said they didn’t have adequate sidewalks and couldn’t walk to their local supermarket. As a result, the Board of Health and DeKalb County Government planners partnered with the school system, community-based organizations, merchant associations and others to change the environment, with support from a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant.

The group conducted a detailed analysis of top destinations, including parks, community gardens, recreation centers, schools, libraries, senior centers, clinics and supermarkets and looked at ways to make walkable and bikable connections between these hot spots. A Master Active Living Plan, in collaboration with efforts to create safe routes to schools, will help to make physical activity a part of the fabric of the community through active transport.

Gregg Furie, MD, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar with the Yale University School of Medicine and VA Connecticut Healthcare System, underscored the importance of active transport with the findings of recent research: Those who engaged in active transport had significantly lower body mass index as well as a lower risk of hypertension and diabetes when compared with those who engaged in no active transport.

>>Read more on transportation and health.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.