Transportation professionals are aware of the connection with health, but are public health professionals making the links? In general terms we know that the design of the built environment impacts on health. Transportation systems are part of the built environment and therefore impact health as well. From the USA comes a well-researched transport and health guidebook that joins the dots.
The guidebook is primarily for transportation practitioners. It has a set of tools and resources for planning at all levels and for collaborating with health stakeholders. The guidebook also serves as reference for public health practitioners to learn more about how to contribute to transport planning.
The guidebook is titled, “Connecting Transportation and Health: A Guide to Communication and Collaboration”. It contains, tips, tools, case examples, process steps and integration opportunities. The intersections between transport and health are presented in table format. While the guide is based on USA organisations, it is applicable in other countries.
The research project underpinning the guide found communication challenges between health and transportation professionals. The challenges included the different jargon and terminology, and the different planning processes. Acquiring relevant data for analysis was another issue. Consequently, the researchers needed to find out how the two disciplines could work together more effectively.
The aim of the guidebook is to foster partnerships between transport agencies and public health organisations. Each have their jargon and assumptions and these need to be clarified throughout the process. There are two documents:
Public mental health
Delegates at an international conference in Barcelona participated in a workshop that provided some useful insights into transport related factors that could impact public mental health. While there are many factors that influence mental health, urban design can provide protective factors.
The title of the article is Scoping assessment of transport design target to improve public mental health.
Barriers in public transport for people with mental health conditions include crowds, waiting times and lack of information. For more on this, see Universal Design of Public Transport Systems for People with Mental Health Impairments.
Accessible Transport Guide
Improving Transport Accessibility for All: Guide to Good Practice, covers transport information, the road and pedestrian environment, infrastructure, vehicles, private cars, and emerging transport services.
The information is detailed and specific in this OECD guide. Examples from different member countries are provided. Although the Guide was published in 2006, the information is still relevant as progress has been slow, particularly in Australia. You can download the guide in PDF from the OECD International Transport Forum website. It is interesting to note that the guide is following its own advice on best practice in the presentation of information.
Accessible Transport: The Economics
Inaccessible transport can be a major barrier to participation in social and civic life, and this has a knock-on effect for the economy. Transport is not usually something we do for its own sake. We use transport in one form or another to achieve something else, such as shopping, going to work or school, or for social activities. It is the glue that holds together the many activities people undertake in their daily lives. But not all transport systems and facilities are accessible to everyone – and it is not just about users of mobility devices.
A discussion paper from New Zealand recognises that some disabilities are invisible, “… given that arguably everyone is a beneficiary of universal design some of the time; that many factors influencing participation are invisible, such as mental illness or hearing difficulty, for example; if an observational measurement method is going to be used, then it must necessarily involve a proxy measure for ‘beneficiary of universal design’.”
This is an encouraging approach because many studies measure ability and disability of individuals at one point in time, and not across the lifespan. The paper includes a road crossing case study from Hamilton in New Zealand. It concludes with the need for mutual understanding between those who plan and build transport and those that use it. The discussion paper on estimating the costs and benefits of participation was prepared by the Roundtable on Economics of Accessible Transport, part of the OECD International Transport Forum.
The OECD website has an iLibrary of discussion papers for this Forum. Filtering for “accessibility” brings up several papers, many of them recent.