Transportation policies and public health are inextricably linked, according to a new report released by the American Public Health Association.
“The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation” (PDF) attempts to put a dollar amount on the cost of transportation-related health outcomes and explores how such policies affect public health.
Our dependence on automobiles and roadways has profound negative impacts on human health: decreased opportunities for physical activity, and increased exposure to air pollution, and the number of traffic crashes. The health costs associated with these impacts, including costs associated with loss of work days and wages, pain and suffering, and premature death, may be as high as several hundred billion dollars.
The report lists other things that are impacted by transportation policy, such as noise, water quality, mental health and/or stress, equity and social capital or social cohesion.
The report cites a 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office that recommended the United States refocus its transportation planning to incorporate cost-benefit analyses and the APHA says those analyses should take health costs into account.
Perhaps somewhat predictably, the report says “Investment should shift toward transit, pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure in order to facilitate healthy, equitable and environmentally sound mobility.”