Health and Transport ? Two Sides of the Same Coin



Health and Transport ? Two Sides of the Same Coin

Authors

E Dolan, Steer Davies Gleave, UK

Description

Co-ordinating efforts undertaken by health and transport practitioners will help strengthen the process of encouraging behaviour change away from sedentary and car-dependent lifestyles. Both fields have unique and innovative methods which they employ to e

Abstract

Co-ordinating efforts undertaken by health and transport practitioners will help strengthen the process of encouraging behaviour change away from sedentary and car-dependent lifestyles. Both fields have unique and innovative methods which they employ to encourage behaviour change, which if applied in unison could lead to more effective and lasting results.

Health and transport are two of the most widely discussed and emotive topics in the media today. The obesity epidemic currently facing the UK regularly makes headlines as do issues such as road safety, congestion, air quality and climate change. These are not new problems and the links between transport and health are widely known amongst practitioners in both fields; however there is a distinct lack of co-ordinated effort to address what is a clear mutual objective, to increase people?s levels of physical activity. From a transport perspective this means encouraging more people to walk and cycle rather than travelling by other means, whereas from a health perspective regular exercise (coupled with a healthy diet) is seen as absolutely essential to prevent illnesses resulting from sedentary lifestyles.

On a positive note, progress is being made at the policy level where the links between health and transport are now better recognised and incorporated into strategy; however in practice many initiatives are failing to effectively engage the public One of the key factors limiting the uptake of physical activity is that it is often tied in strongly with exercise through sport and recreation over other methods including travel. Subsequently whilst the majority of people do understand the need for regular exercise, many feel that their busy lifestyles do not allow them enough time to exercise. . To better understand the strategy aspect, this paper would summarise the policy initiatives being taken in the UK to promote healthy lifestyles through transport.

From our experience in delivering Personal Travel Planning (PTP) projects in locations such as Coventry where engagement with health practitioners was undertaken, we believe that it is a well suited method to delivering effective behaviour change. Due to the quick wins and cost-effective nature of PTP, it has become a popular method employed to encourage modal shift, and this is reflected by the increasing number of PTP projects currently being commissioned in the UK. Subsequently, with PTP practitioners and health promoters working towards similar objectives, we believe there is a significant opportunity to adopt a more co-ordinated approach which includes joint working.

To help understand how a co-ordinated approach could help practitioners from both fields, we present the following insights based on our experience in Coventry:
? Due to limited resources and funding, closer working by health and transport practitioners would reduce the risk of duplicity in projects that share similar objectives.
? At a workshop held with health practitioners in Coventry it was established that health and travel advisor skills were complimentary and could be used in unison
? Practitioners in both fields could learn a lot from the other in terms of community engagement and encouraging behaviour change based on previous successes and failures.
? Encouraging active travel in daily life could lead to a reduction in the number of cases treating preventable illnesses attributed to sedentary / car dependent lifestyles such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Whilst a number of the examples in this paper relate to PTP, we believe the scope for joint-working between transport and health practitioners is much wider than that and should receive more attention in the near future. There is significant potential for daily transport to be used to improve health, however in order to do this it needs to be viewed not just as a perfunctory way of getting from A to B but as a means to healthier living.

Publisher

Association for European Transport