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Health in Transport Policy

Reflections from the BiRT Network Resilience Challenges Workshop

Last week we attended the Birmingham in Real Time (BiRT) Network Resilience Challenges Workshop at the iCentrum on Innovation Birmingham Campus. The workshop brought together a range of stakeholders in a series of sessions, to brainstorm, highlight, detail and formalise a number of specific challenges to work on to start delivering the West Midlands Network Resilience agenda.

The workshop was led by Birmingham in Real Time project manager Alan Dolhasz, with support from Andy Radford (Birmingham City Council) and Teresa Jolley (SME Engagement and Innovation Facilitator for the Transport Systems Catapult/Transport for West Midlands Intelligent Mobility Incubator at iCentrum), building on the work already done with Birmingham’s UTMC traffic data with Birmingham City University, and the priorities required to deliver the Mayor’s performance dashboard for transport.

There was also a demo from CEO Robin North of Immense Simulations, on the tool that is being used to demo a Strategic Decision Support Tool for TfWM through the Keeping the West Midlands Moving project (by Transport Systems Catapult).

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It was really great to see everybody, from policy-makers to developers, data analysts, researchers, and SME’s, so interested in working together to figure out how to collaboratively solve some of the challenges being faced, with a specific focus on the need for data to support the delivery and evaluation of projects, which would require open access to not only transport, but also health data…

The crossovers between transport and health

Transport has a major impact on health; either enhancing health or increasing health risks.

How does transport impact health?

As well as the journey itself, transport impacts health by providing access to employment, education, health services and recreational opportunities – all of which influence health status and equity. Significant health and health equity impacts from transport may also occur more indirectly – in terms of the ways that roads shape the design and character of neighbourhoods and cities. For instance, heavily trafficked roads that cut through neighbourhoods can limit street activity and constrain social interactions that strengthen social networks and communities.

One of the key transport-related health impacts is air pollution exposures. The health effects associated with exposure to air pollution include:

  • Cardiovascular disease, like heart attacks and strokes;
  • Respiratory disease, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma;
  • Lung cancer; and
  • Adverse birth outcomes, like low birth weight and preterm birth.

What needs to be done?

Progress towards health transport goals can be assessed by collecting data on key transport performance criteria and indicators including active travel, use of public transport, air pollution exposures, pedestrian injuries and access to transport.

Analysing patterns with respect to geographic locale, populations and time sequences will enable transport planners to better understand and illustrate the health impacts of their transport systems.

Transport systems could then be designed to not only reduce health risks, but also, enhance health, by encouraging more active travel behaviours and healthier lifestyle choices. But this requires transport planners to have access to health data…

By Allie Short