Online Program

Bridging public health and transportation networks to advance active transportation policy

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 12:50 p.m. - 1:10 p.m.

Marissa Zwald, MPH, Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Amy Eyler, MPH (May 2017), Brown School, Graduate Program of Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Sarah Moreland-Russell, PhD, Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis, MO

Active transportation (AT) policies are often developed, adopted, and implemented by organizations from non-health sectors, including transportation. Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are federally mandated agencies that distribute federal transportation funds and plan urban transportation projects. Although MPOs are positioned to advance AT policies, past research has demonstrated variation in how funding is apportioned towards AT across metropolitan areas. This study explores the role of MPOs and the influence of their policy collaborations in prioritizing AT policies.


In summer 2014, fifteen interviews were conducted with 19 key informants across 6 U.S. cities representing MPO staff and individuals of partnering AT advocacy organizations. A snowball sampling technique was used for recruitment and data was collected until saturation was reached.


Thematic analysis revealed that collaboration strongly influenced AT policy prioritization by MPOs. MPOs identified the following AT partners as important: state departments of transportation, local advocacy groups, state and local public health departments, local elected officials who are often represented on MPO boards, regional and city agencies, and academic institutions. MPOs discussed the importance of these groups to increase public and political awareness of AT benefits; educate and provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions on how to integrate AT policies into project proposals submitted to MPOs; convene stakeholders; and support AT policy and project implementation.


This qualitative study provides insight on the policy change processes and partnerships of MPOs that can support AT policies and demonstrates the importance of collaboration for a variety of AT policy activities by MPOs.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify at least one way Metropolitan Planning Organizations can influence active transportation through policy. Identify at least three common partners of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in active transportation policy and planning. Describe at least two reasons that public health stakeholders should partner with Metropolitan Planning Organizations to advance active transportation policy.

Keyword(s): Transportation, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Marissa Zwald is a doctoral student at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis. Her research focuses on the intersection of transportation policies and public health.
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.