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A New Role for Public Health Transportation: Creating and Supporting Community Models for Active Transportation

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Abstract:

In the early 1980's, socio-environmental conditions began gaining recognition as important health determinants. The nation sought to reverse the detrimental health impacts of pollution and poor air quality by enacting legal measures, such as the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21, 1998). In addition to creating poor air quality, changes in technology, community design, and transportation have altered the natural daily routines that previously contributed to a more active lifestyle. At the time of this white paper and brief report, 70 percent of American adults did not complete the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity for five or more days a week. The risks of a sedentary lifestyle contribute to rising numbers of obese adults and at least 200,000 deaths annually. Auto-dominated communities also create unsafe conditions for walking and biking. The purpose of this white paper and brief report is to articulate the role of public health in transportation and the potential health impacts offered through a transportation system that supports active living and provides more choices for people to be physically active (walking and biking). In order to advance the concept of active living, it is necessary to effectively communicate its role within the context of other disciplines' missions. Public health must be included in city planning and transportation system design. The white paper gives a brief description of communities across America that are models for active transportation. It also includes a list of updated policies for governments and community institutions that are critical elements for successful active transportation community models.