Public Health represented at transportation equity fly-in in Washington, DC
Public health officials from California, Colorado, Oregon and Rhode Island joined transportation activists from their states in mid-July in Washington, DC at the “Utilizing Transportation Investment to Expand Opportunity for All,” event to show support for transportation policies that improve access and health, expand economic opportunity and foster accountability and a focus on results. On the second day of the event, the delegates met with staff representing their state members of Congress. The policy recommendations shared have the potential to improve the health of communities across the country, especially those that are already considered vulnerable.
CDC podcasts highlight transportation-related topics in health
The CDC now offers an archive of podcasts, including “A Cup of Health with CDC.” This program is a weekly feature of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and hosts researchers from the CDC to discuss public health concerns and ways for individuals to address them. Aging, obesity and safety are recurring topics on the podcast. Many podcast reports address transportation and health:
In addition, July’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network podcast offers advice on evaluating the changes in asthma hospitalization rates over time for a given area. Tracks FAQs is a monthly series through which CDC Tracking experts address questions regarding the use of the National Tracking Network.
NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene hosts webinar on public health and design
At the end of June, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene hosted a webinar entitled “Creating Healthy Communities through Design,” featuring speakers from the NYC Health Department, the Department of City Planning and the Mayor’s Institute on City Design. The webinar served as an introduction to the NYC Department of Design & Construction’s new Active Design Guidelines, and discussed the principles and possibilities of active design and the specific policies and programs initiated in New York City. The webinar and presentations can be accessed online.
Study shows that increasing the perceived risk of receiving a ticket can reduce distracted driving
Pilot programs emphasizing high-visibility enforcement of distracted driving laws in Hartford, CN, and Syracuse, NY, have been credited with reducing hand-held cell phone use while driving by 57% and 32%, and texting while driving by 72% and 32%, in those respective areas. The motivation for such programs is simple: according to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, distracted driving is responsible for 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries every year. At this time, 32 states and DC have instituted laws prohibiting drivers from texting, and 8 states and DC have prohibited the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. However, the effectiveness of these laws is often questioned because violations are difficult to observe: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2009, 5% of drivers in the U.S. were using a cell phone at any given time of the day.
The pilot programs in Hartford and Syracuse were connected with the campaign title Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other. The programs followed a model previously used to address speeding and impaired and aggressive driving, which emphasized heightened enforcement during a specific time period and pervasive media coverage of the issue and campaign. The goal of this two-pronged approach is not to increase the number of tickets written—the percentage of drivers who were actually ticketed in Hartford did not change significantly during the program, despite increased enforcement—but to increase drivers’ perceived risk of receiving a ticket, which is hoped to incentivize a change in behavior.
Children with ADHD may face increased risks as pedestrians
The Center for Injury Sciences at the University of Alabama has recently developed a program that both teaches children about safe and unsafe conditions in which to cross the street and allows researchers to study the children’s original perceptions of such conditions. The program relies on a virtual reality technology, through which children are able to simulate crossing a moderately busy street without being subjected to the danger associated with crossing a real street. The results of this study demonstrate that children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to cross the street under unsafe conditions, although they engage in the same precautionary activities (such as looking both ways) as many of their peers.
CDC recognizes global road safety as one of the top public health achievements of the decade
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recently featured a list of Ten Great Public Health Achievements Worldwide, 2001-2010, which included “Increased Awareness and Response for Improving Road Safety.” This recognition was largely based on the World Health Organizations’ efforts to address the overwhelming global impact of road injuries, and the 39% decrease in traffic injuries in the European Union between 2001 and 2009. However, the report made it clear that the global disparities of traffic injuries remain significant and unacceptable. Alongside praise, the CDC presents road safety activists with a challenge: 2011-2020 has been declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety by the WHO and UN General Assembly. This resolution calls for improvements in helmet and seatbelt use, improving public transport and infrastructure, minimizing dangerous driving behaviors, and improving care for the injured. If the goals for this Decade of Action are met, it is estimated that 5 million deaths and 50 million serious injuries could be prevented, and $3 trillion could be saved.
Partnership for Prevention highlights transportation policies for healthy communities
Partnership for Prevention has recently released “Transportation and Health: Policy Interventions for Safer, Healthier People and Communities,” which uses evidence from government agency reports and statistics and peer-reviewed academic journals to evaluate the impacts of transportation policies on environmental public health, active transportation and traffic injuries and fatalities both in the short- and long-term. The primary recommendation of the report is the enhancement of a multi-modal approach to surface transportation, which could improve individuals’ and communities’ overall health and well-being and cut health care costs. As a part of this larger objective, the report recommends specific changes to existing infrastructure and policy accompanied by education campaigns. For example, a number of recommendations for improving driver safety and reducing traffic injuries and fatalities are included, such as reducing speeding and distracted driving, and encouraging the use of seat belts and the implementation of graduated driver licensing programs.
Transportation Research Board debuts Research in Progress Database
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) now hosts a Research in Progress (RiP) Database holding information on over 8,400 recent and current transportation research projects funded by departments of transportation and universities. The database acts as an interface between these different levels of institutions, each of which has direct access to routinely update, modify, add and delete information regarding their projects, thus ensuring that users continue to have easy access to accurate information. Health is well represented among these projects: the database contains research projects focusing on pedestrian and motor vehicle safety, air quality, livability, active transportation and other topics. On August 11, from 2:30-3:30 PM (Eastern), TRB will host a webinar on how to enter and manage research projects in the RiP Database.
New book highlights the role of the built environment in public health
Designing Healthy Communities, Dr. Richard Jackson’s companion book to the upcoming PBS broadcast, will be formally released at the APHA Annual Meeting in October. In this book, Dr. Jackson examines the multitude of ways in which the built environment currently affects public health—that is, how it has contributed to obesity and other chronic illnesses—and how it can be used to improve health across the nation and reduce health disparities. It highlights the importance of understanding the root causes of the nation’s health ailments and points to successful practices based on real people with real solutions. Transportation is identified as one aspect of the built environment that has important consequences for health, and special attention is given to practices aiming to develop safe, active and sustainable communities and reduce local dependence on automobiles.
Recent research on health and transportation:
- Exploring a Public Health Perspective on Pedestrian Planning. Evenson KR, Satinsky SB, Rodriguez D, Aytur SA. 2011. Health Promotion Practice; ePub.
- Mediating Factors Associated With Pedestrian Injury in Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Stavrinos D, Biasini FJ, Fine PR, Hodgens JB, Khatri S, Mrug S, Schwebel DC. 2011. Pediatrics; ePub.
- Road safety plan aims to save five million lives in next 10 years. Zarocostas J. 2011. British Medical Journal; 342(online): d2918.
- A case study of pedestrian safety on multi-lane high-speed arterials. Zhou H, Miller D, Hsu P. 2011. Advances in Transportation Studies; (23): 77-88.
- Bicycling renaissance in North America? An update and re-appraisal of cycling trends and policies. Pucher J, Buehler R, Seinen M. 2011. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice; 45(6): 451-475.
- Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review. Oja P, Titze S, Bauman A, De Geus B, Krenn P, Reger-Nash B, Kohlberger T. 2011. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports; 21(4): 496-509.
- U.S. School travel, 2009 an assessment of trends. McDonald NC, Brown AL, Marchetti LM, Pedroso MS. 2011. American Journal of Preventive Medicine; 41(2): 146-15.
- Are road traffic fatalities affected by economic growth and urbanization development? Bener A, Yousif A, Al-Malki MA, El-Jack I, Bener M. 2011. Advances in Transportation Studies; (23): 89-96.
- Contributing Factors to Older-Driver Injury Severity in Rural and Urban Areas. Perera L, Dissanayake S. 2011. Journal of the Transportation Research Forum; 49(1): 5-22.
- Drivers can poorly predict their own driving impairment: A comparison between measurements of subjective and objective driving quality. Verster, J.C. and Roth, T. 2011. Journal of Psychopharmacology; ePub.
- Driving into the sunset: Supporting cognitive functioning in older drivers. Young, M.S. and Bunce, D.J. 2011. Journal of Aging Research; 2011(ePub): 918782.
New TIGER grants announced
The USDOT will be collecting pre-applications for the third round of TIGER grants from August 22 until October 3, 2011. TIGER grants represent a bottom-up approach to transportation innovation investment: they reflect an understanding that local agencies are in the best position to understand the needs of their community and provide an opportunity for the federal government to sponsor programs initiated by those agencies. All local government agencies, including public health departments and public universities, are eligible to apply for a minimum of $10 million ($1 million for rural projects) for capital investment for surface transportation projects. In particular, projects that show community support in the form of non-federal investment, emphasize multimodal transportation and have the potential to further long-term national goals such a safety, livability and environmental sustainability will be given priority. Final applications will be made available on October 4, following the pre-application deadline, and will be collected no later than October 31. Additional application resources are available online, along with a Webcast detailing how to compete for a USDOT TIGER grant.
TEN webinars offer insight into organizing for transportation
The Transportation Equity Network will be hosting educational webinars focusing on topics related to organizing for transportation on the third Thursday of every month. TEN is a grassroots network of organizations across the country promoting the creation of an equity-based national transportation system. These webinars provide individuals and groups with an opportunity to become informed about and involved with this movement. They are intended for everyone: activists, allies and community and transportation leaders. The first webinar, “Demystifying the Federal Decision-Making Process: Making the Connection between Your Local Transportation Campaign and Federal Policy” was hosted on July 21. The second is scheduled for August 25 at 4 PM (Eastern).
Give feedback on 2012 updates to LEED rating system
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will be seeking feedback on purposed updates to the LEED green building rating system until September 14, 2011. Among these updates is a new Location and Transportation (LT) category, which includes modified versions of many existing credits. Major changes include the inclusion of pedestrian friendly streets as an essential aspect of the new Development Density and Diverse Uses credit (formerly the Development Density credit) and the restriction of eligibility for the Low-Emitting and Fuel-Efficient Vehicles credit, which is now available only to schools and warehouses. In addition, the Walkable Project Site credit has been proposed as a simplified version of Walkable Streets, and the Bicycle Network, Storage and Shower Rooms credit now includes minimum requirements for the security and accessibility of bike racks.