Improved public health and safety is not just a laudable community goal. There is economic value to these benefits, which is a great boon for constrained budgets in all sectors. The Mobility Lab Transportation Cost-Savings Calculator for Public Health and Safety project is:
- Identifying the ways that investments in “transportation demand management” influence public health and safety,
- Quantifying a subset of these health impacts based on available research, and
- Monetizing these effects where possible.
Five main categories of health determinants are currently being studied as part of our “return on investment” project:
- Physical Activity
- Access (to Healthcare, Healthy Food, Jobs, and others)
- Safety and Security
- Quality of the Environment
- Mental Health
Please visit the links above for more information on the progress of each portion of this research.
Transportation is used by every member of our community. Working adults commute every workday. Children go to school. Retired people access medical and community services. Families get together. Friends travel on vacation. And everyone goes shopping. Travel is a part of our daily life. What we may not realize is that the way we travel can have a huge impact on our health.
Arlington County has created an environment that provides opportunities for an active lifestyle. Active transportation, such as walking and biking, combines moving more with getting you where you need to go. Arlington County Commuter Services programs help all those who live, work, and play in Arlington to use the full range of travel options available to them, and to make the best mode choice for each trip. For example, if you live or work a few blocks from the grocery store, you could choose to walk, use your basket on your bike, or get a Capital Bikeshare bike (PDF). If you have bags of groceries to bring back, then your mode of choice would probably be a bus, a carshare vehicle, or your own car.
Adoption of more active modes of transportation can result in healthier lifestyles, higher life‐expectancy, reduced stress‐related illness, and reduced illness or death from obesity, heart and lung diseases, and diabetes. Education and awareness campaigns designed to enhance public safety can reduce accidents and fatalities associated with all modes of travel. Affordable and convenient access to medical care, healthy food, jobs, and education can improve the ability of individuals to remain healthy. Increased use of green transportation modes can reduce pollutants that enter the air and water, which in turn results in less disease and more healthy communities.
Ways that “transportation demand management” influences public health and safety
The question is not only whether Arlington’s TDM programs influence health outcomes, but also how and how much. The range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence health status are known as determinants of health. These include, but are not limited to:
- Physical environment – infrastructure, environmental exposures
- Social environment – income, status, education, support networks
- Health services and medical care – access, quality
- Health behaviors – habits, addictions, choices
- Genetics and biology – sex, age
Quantifying health impacts
Health and safety benefits or positive health outcomes are measured in terms of reduction in rates of mortality (deaths) and morbidity (disease, disability). These benefits are reaped by both the individuals who make a healthier/safer choice and the community at large. Direct, intrinsic, or internal benefits are those that an individual experiences, such as a longer, healthier life. An individual’s behavior change may also cause indirect, extrinsic, or external benefits to accrue to others, such as the company that experiences higher productivity from healthier employees, or the local government that experiences fewer costs associated with provision of healthcare services to a healthier, more mobile population. For more discussion on internal and external benefits of transportation, see Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis: Techniques, Estimates and Implications, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2009
Monetize these effects where possible
In the literature on the economic value of health outcomes, there are two general kinds of analyses: those that use the value of a statistical life (VoSL), which focuses on deaths averted, or mortality, and those that use cost of illness (morbidity) savings such as Quality or Disability Adjusted Life Years (QALYS or DALYS), medical costs, workers compensation claims, and worker productivity. We anticipate that our methodology will need to consider and account for both morbidity and mortality health benefits of TDM programs. However, the monetization of these health outcomes is both challenging and controversial. Therefore, throughout the project we will strive to report our assumptions transparently, to test a range of possible values for various impacts, and to fully describe those impacts that we are unable to quantify or monetize at this time. For more discussion on the economic value of health outcomes, see Valuing Health Outcomes: Policy Choices and Technical Issues, Resources for the Future, 2004
For more, please visit Mobility Lab’s extensive Health section for case studies and research making the “return on investment” case.
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Photo by Emanuele Rosso