Transportation Health Impact Assessment Toolkit
For Planning and Health Professionals
Reduced drinking and driving and increased seatbelt use—these transportation policies have helped save many lives. Transportation policies can also be about infrastructure—how people get from place to place. These policies can help or block people from healthy lifestyle choices, such as making regular doctor visits, accessing good jobs, and choosing healthy food. This is especially true for underserved residents, children, older adults, and households without automobiles.
When health is considered among the goals of transportation policy and land use planning, the resulting policy can help reduce air pollution; prevent traffic injuries and deaths; and lower obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer rates. Such outcomes can happen when roads are designed to be pedestrian-, cyclist- and public transit-friendly. Roads that are designed for people as well as for cars and trucks can increase physical activity, enhance community quality of life, and increase access to community services.
How can public officials, community members, and planners ensure that future transportation policies consider health? One way is to use a health impact assessment (HIA). Transportation HIAs help policymakers see and address the potential health effects of a proposed transportation project, plan, or policy before it is built or implemented. A transportation HIA can ensure that all people, regardless of age, income, or ability, are able to move about their community easily and safely.
A community’s transportation planning process can have many stages. For example, a Long-Range Transportation Plan made by states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) sets the vision for transportation over a twenty-year timeline. A Transportation Improvement Program identifies which projects will be funded and constructed over the next four years. As a policy tool, transportation HIAs can help prioritize local and statewide project proposals by identifying the health value. The HIA process can also encourage all stakeholders, including the MPO, project managers, elected officials, public health officials, the residents, and commuters to work together on improving public health.
The Transportation HIA Toolkit provides a framework for public health departments, city planners, project managers, and other stakeholders to conduct HIAs on proposed transportation projects, plans, and policies.
The elements of the Transportation HIA Toolkit are:
General HIA resources
Sectors from education to housing to community design use HIAs to identify opportunities to improve public health. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Healthy Places Health Impact Assessment page for an HIA overview and the steps involved in any HIA process. You can also find links to online HIA courses and other resources.
HIA Background Information and HIA Indicators
To conduct an HIA, practitioners will need to research background information on the project area and affected population. The HIA Background Information and HIA Indicators section links to national databases and provides guidance on relevant indicators that assess the health impact of transportation projects. This section also directs practitioners to local sources for data specific to an area.
Strategies for Health-Oriented Transportation Projects and Policies
HIAs make evidence-based recommendations to promote positive health outcomes and minimize negative consequences. The Strategies for Health-Oriented Transportation Projects and Policies section identifies transportation design and infrastructure strategies recognized in published HIAs. It also provides resources to inform recommendations. The strategies and evidence are divided into six categories:
- Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
- Expand Public Transportation
- Promote Active Transportation
- Incorporate Healthy Community Design Features
- Improve Safety for All Users
- Ensure Equitable Access to Transportation Networks
In the case studies, you can find existing HIA reports on transportation-related projects and policies, ranging from walking and biking improvements and public transit expansion to VMT legislation.
Other Transportation HIA Resources:
Transportation and Health Toolkits
- Convergence Partnership: Transportation and Health Toolkit
- American Public Health Association: Transportation and Health Toolkit
This site has tools to help you explain to others the connection between transportation and health.
- UCLA Health Impact Assessment Clearing House
- Partnership for Prevention (US). Transportation and Health: Policy Intervention for Safer, Healthier People and Communities. Washington, DC: Partnership for Prevention; 2011. Available at: http://www.convergencepartnership.org/site/c.fhLOK6PELmF/b.4950415/
k.4FF7/Transportation_and_Health_Toolkit.htm. Accessed on 21 July 2011.
The Partnership for Prevention collaborated with the University of California, Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The resulting report examines the effects of transportation policies on public health in three key areas—environment and environmental public health; community design and active transportation (human-powered transportation for getting around like biking and walking); and motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities.
- Dora C, Phillips M, editors. Transport, environment and health. World Health Organization. WHO Regional Publications, European Series, No. 89. 2000. http://www.euro.who.int/document/e72015.pdf [PDF - 1.24 MB].
A major purpose of this book is to alert policy analysts, decision-makers and politicians to current knowledge about the health effects of transport and the means to reduce them.
- Bell J, Cohen L, Malekafzali S. The transportation prescription: bold new ideas for healthy equitable transportation reform in America. 2009. PolicyLink. http://www.convergencepartnership.org/site/c.fhLOK6PELmF/
This guide outlines a new vision for American transportation networks by improving mobility from place to place and residents’ access to their communities. The guide includes information on how transportation options and infrastructure can affect on health and what transportation policy changes would improve public health.
- Douglas M, Thomson H, Jepson R, Hurley F, Higgins M, Muirie J, Gorman D (eds). Health Impact Assessment of Transport Initiatives: A Guide. NHS Scotland Edinburgh, 2007. 110 pages. http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/2124.aspx.
This guide to Scotland’s transportation HIAs contains resources for on how to use evidence to support recommendations (chapter 6). It also summarizes findings on evidence that connects transportation policies and projects to health outcomes (appendix 4).