WASHINGTON --- The American Public Health Association (APHA) today released “The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation,” a new publication that addresses how our nation’s current transportation system contributes to today’s soaring health costs and impedes progress toward improving public health.
Chief among those costs are U.S. traffic fatalities and injuries, which remain unacceptably high. In March 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed a statistical projection that shows that roughly 33,963 people died in traffic crashes in 2009. Furthermore, according to the American Automobile Association, traffic crashes cost an astounding $164.2 billion each year, or roughly $1,051 per person annually. Some of the more hidden costs of transportation include physical inactivity, rising asthma and obesity rates in both adults and children, and degraded air quality. All are increasing to staggering levels and negatively impacting Americans.
The report points out that transportation policies can also have a transformative effect. Increasing sustainable transportation options and improving community transportation designs could significantly improve public health by introducing walking, bicycling and transit use as convenient and cost-effective ways to integrate more physical activity into the daily habits of all transportation users. APHA supports policy that would increase access to safe sidewalks, streets and playgrounds, health services and jobs for all Americans no matter what area of the country.
Additionally, policies that improve traffic safety and support healthy communities can help to reduce childhood obesity and increase physical activity across diverse populations; while these policies are critically important they unfortunately remain underfunded.
“Our country depends on a robust transportation system that facilitates easy, safe commutes and promotes physical activity in order to reduce the burden of death and disease and improve health outcomes of all communities,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Millions of Americans are counting on elected officials to support meaningful policy initiatives that would make the country’s transportation system more efficient in areas of the country that need it the most.”
Given the anticipated reauthorization of the federal surface transportation bill, “The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation” will serve as the premier resource for recommendations for future transportation policy and investment.
Intended to educate decision-makers, health policy professionals and the broader public, the report will greatly benefit public health and transportation professionals interested in health evaluation and cost assessments in national transportation policy. The report is available at http://www.apha.org/advocacy/reports/reports/.