For years, public health and community transportation planning worked together like kids at an sixth grade dance: boys on one side, girls on the other. They see each other, but there’s not much, if any, mingling.
But health and transportation professionals are learning more about and appreciating what they have in common with “the other side,” working together to integrate commonalities into each other’s plans, policies and programs to elevate, improve and sustain community health and public transportation options. Improving community health by reducing chronic disease through prevention and wellness initiatives that include increasing physical activity overlaps nicely with increased community connectivity and multi-modal policies and initiatives that improve pedestrian, bicycling and transit transportation options.
Ohio is making great strides in bringing health and transportation to the “dance floor:"
- The Ohio Department of Health’s Ohio’s Plan to Prevent and Reduce Chronic Disease: 2014-2018 included state and regional transportation and health professionals during development, and has three active transportation/physical activity objectives – Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and Shared Use – as evidence-based practices to reduce chronic disease.
- The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program requires health representation on local SRTS teams and includes state health representation during the application review.
- The Ohio Department of Education’s wellness guidelines for school districts, “Healthier Schools: a Brighter Tomorrow” promotes policies and programs such as Walk to School Day and healthy family lifestyle choices.
Nationally, there are a number of organizations attending the dance:
- The Built Environment and Public Health Clearinghouse has recently expanded,and is a collaborative between the American Public Health Association, the National Network of Public Health Institutes, and the American Planning Association, and is intended to be an evolving resource for training and relevant news at this “critical intersection of health and place.”
- “Integrating Public Health and Transportation Planning: Perspectives for MPOs and COGs” from the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) highlights how regional governments can integrate public health into their transportation planning process.
While the dance floor may not be quite full, great strides are being made to get health and transportation to “pair up” and move in the same direction. As both sides better understand the steps, learn each other’s common ground and understand their partner’s goals, progress will be made to choreograph healthy communities with active transportation. Let’s dance!
Kate Moening is the Ohio Advocacy Organizer for the Ohio Safe Routes Network, supported by the Safe Routes Partnership. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Ohio Safe Routes Network website .