What We’re Reading: Connecting Mobility and Health

Author: Alex King

Published: April 26, 2018

New technologies and new transit options are reshaping our cities and towns in ways that offer new mobility opportunities for residents. As these new technological and transit programs shift the landscape, mobility’s impact on health and wellness are increasingly becoming the topics of attention.

We’ve seen the national dialogue shift toward the role of transportation as a social determinant of health as more health care professionals begin to understand the impact of sufficient access to care in patient outcomes.  Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) in particular are making their presence and interest in the health care access space well-known. Uber and Lyft have both announced partnerships with health care entities in recent months, and even Ford Motor Company recently announced that it was expanding a medical transport service called GoRide in Southeast Michigan, one of several efforts by the U.S. automaker to build new ride service businesses around its Transit commercial van, and to fulfill its shifting priorities as a broader mobility company.

Despite all these new solutions to health care access problems flying around, some concerns remain. This article in The Medical Futurist addresses the influx of ride-hailing platforms and companies into the medical transportation space.  Despite the potential positive impact these companies could have on the non-emergency medical transportation field, they do so with great risk. There seems to be an ever-growing inevitability that as more riders use ride-hailing as alternatives to ambulance trips, drivers may get caught in a true emergency situation without the proper training.

Impacting overall community health should not be limited to focusing only on trips directly to health care, but to remember that personal mobility in all aspects of life affects individual physical and mental. Beyond reaching the doctor, increased opportunities for walking and biking can improve overall mobility and provide personal health benefits. The Walk Friendly Communities program recently recognized 10 communities for “commitment to prioritizing pedestrians and creating safe, comfortable and inviting places to walk.”

The communities come from a wide range of states, including both rural and urban areas, showing that supporting walking and biking can be successful in places with varied characteristics.  However, it is important to remember that walkable communities can still fail to keep people safe. Florida’s lack of pedestrian safety is particularly concerning, considering the implementation of a complete streets policy. Despite the creation of pedestrian and cycle ways, pedestrians deaths in the state remain high due to the overarching car-centric transportation planning. This is a critical reminder of how a car-centric mindset and can undermine even the most well-intended policies and ideas.

Mobility and health are inherently linked, and it seems that policymakers and health care providers are beginning to understand and support this. Many states have finally realized that policy decisions in sectors outside of health care, such as transportation or housing, affect health outcomes and spending. The Health Impact Project has recently released an interactive map set that document state-level bills that address two key approaches that integrate health care with other social determinants: Health Impact Assessments, and Health in All Policies. Although the impact of these approaches takes years to become apparent, mobility managers should at how such approaches could positively impact the mobility and health of their community.

Image Credit: Brian Yapp, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

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Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Andrew Carpenter (carpenter@ctaa.org).