207930 Transportation impacts on health equity: The issues and the opportunities

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 10:45 AM

Shireen Malekafzali, MPH , Center for Health and Place, PolicyLink, Oakland, CA
It has been well documented that transportation has direct health consequences: traffic injuries and deaths, pollution-related asthma, and steep declines in physical activity are just a few examples. Less known is that virtually every negative effect is particularly pronounced in low-income communities and among people of color.

Inequitable transportation policies and resources fuel health disparities. For example, in underinvested neighborhoods, poor street design, delayed road maintenance, inadequate lighting, and minimal traffic enforcement place residents at higher risk for injury—and discourage walking and bicycling, which may be the most viable options for physical activity in a neighborhood with no parks or recreation centers or for families that cannot afford gym memberships. Transportation also affects health indirectly. Transportation is the way we get to work, the grocery store, and the doctor's office. People without reliable, efficient connections are cut off from economic opportunity and essential services. Access to transportation, to opportunity, and to healthy living are thus inextricably linked.

The federal surface transportation bill is a key opportunity to create a policy response. The bill, which authorizes federal programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for five years, marks the largest transportation expenditure in the United States and transfers billions of dollars from the federal government to states and localities.

This presentation will identify the ways transportation deepens health inequities, provide an overview of the surface transportation bill as an opportunity to create healthy built environments, identify specific strategies to ensure equity and name avenues for health professionals to get involved.

Learning Objectives:
- Describe how transportation policy contributes to health disparities both directly and indirectly. - Articulate strategies to create more equitable and healthy communities through transportation policy. - Discuss the current opportunities within the federal surface transportation bill reauthorization to create transportation policies supportive of health. - Describe the current political opportunity to create safer, healthier transportation systems.

Keywords: Health Disparities, Environmental Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: - Currently a Senior Associate at the Center for Health and Place at PolicyLink - Currently serve on the steering committee of the Transportation Equity Network - Currently work on federal policy as it relates to health and equity - Previously worked on a built environment and health team at the San Francisco Department of Public Health - Conducted health impact assessments on community rezoning plans and area plans
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.