Transportation influences the well-being of Americans every day. However, many don’t know the impact they can have in making commuting safer, cleaner and healthier.

Promoting Active Transportation front cover

APHA and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership co-authored a primer to help public health practitioners understand how transportation is built in, and can improve, communities. Photo by APHA

Citing the growing rate of obesity, the high cost of gas and climate change, APHA and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership co-authored a primer to help transform the way Americans travel — and in doing so, grow stronger communities. “Promoting Active Transportation: An Opportunity for Public Health” explains how public health practitioners can:

  • affect how transportation is built in communities, regions and states;
  • understand how transportation programs are organized and funded; and
  • engage stakeholders to find effective calls for action.

“Everyone travels. Whether it is for work, school or play, how we as individuals and as a society travel has impacts that go far beyond the seemingly simple and routine act of going from one place to another. This common trait provides an ideal intervention point for public health practitioners. In fact, it may be one of the few intervention points with the potential to transform individual health, community health and environmental conditions all at the same time,” the primer states.

The latest federal transportation bill — Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century — begins in October 2012 and gives public health professionals means of affecting modern transportation practices. This includes their role in fostering change — for safe bicycling, improved sidewalks, multi-use pathways and other commuting practices — at federal, state, regional and local levels.

The increase of active transportation, such as walking or biking, has proven health benefits. According to the primer, the Federal Highway Administration found that when active transportation programs were implemented into four test communities, injuries were reduced and their economic cost of mortality declined by $6.8 billion.

The primer finds the greatest opportunity for intervention at the planning stage of transportation development. It includes communication strategies, encouraging public health practitioners to understand the stakeholders involved and the roles different transportation modes play before engaging transportation decision-makers.

Visit APHA’s transportation page for additional information on the links between public health, equity and transportation.