The Newberry Trail along the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.

The Newberry Trail along the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.

The connection between transportation and health is clear, though not all communities have the same access to safe, active living options. APHA’s two new Transportation and Health Stories from the Field showcase how cross-sector partnerships in Wisconsin and Minnesota are working to change that.

“We recognize that public health must work with other sectors in order to achieve health equity,” said Katherine Robb, senior program manager for environmental health with APHA’s Center for Public Health Policy. “APHA encourages transportation and public health collaboration so that health and equity become transportation planning priorities in all communities.”

To that end, APHA has partnered with transportation planners and engineers on a variety of projects, such as the Bicycling & Walking in the US Benchmarking Report website and the Plan4Health project. APHA also provided support to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Transportation to develop the online Transportation and Health Tool.

Released in 2015, with input from an expert panel, it helps transportation practitioners incorporate health into planning and policy decisions. The tool’s indicators measure how the transportation environment affects safety, active transportation, air quality and connectivity to destinations. And its related strategies offer evidence-based solutions to improve health outcomes for everyone.

The new Stories from the Field focus on partnership projects that use the principles behind the Transportation and Health Tool in the East Central Region of Wisconsin and the state of Minnesota.

“Planning with a Public Health Focus – Connecting the Dots in the East Central Region of Wisconsin” covers how the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission works with public health departments and nonprofit partners to identify shared values to support active living and integrate public health into transportation plans.

The Safe Routes to School program originally brought sectors together to develop safe environments that encourage children to walk and bike to school throughout the region. This led to community health improvement plans, an ambitious regional bicycle and pedestrian plan, an important corridor study, community engagement events and a multi-sector workshop on the Transportation and Health Tool.

“Minnesota Health and Transportation – Partners for Change” details how the Minnesota departments of Transportation and Health have partnered over the years to advance health equity. Successful initiatives include implementation of the Safe Routes to School program; health impact assessments; Complete Streets policies; the statewide pedestrian planning framework, Minnesota Walks; and a Statewide Bicycle System Plan.

“Each transportation and health partner brings new perspectives, resources and stakeholders to the work,” said Robb. “We think it’s important to highlight projects that demonstrate the values that sectors share and the mutual benefits that result from working together.”

To learn about other organizations using the Transportation and Health Tool to advance health at the state and regional levels, read APHA’s five Case Studies released last year.