A Research Roadmap for Transportation and Public Health
Monday, January 9, 2017
Transportation is an essential component of a functioning society. Transportation provides access to jobs, education, health care, recreation and essential goods and services—all of which are aspects of the social determinants of health. Distribution of transportation goods and services across populations substantially contributes to the length and quality of life. The missions of state departments of transportation (state DOTs) typically include safety, efficiency, mobility, accessibility, and quality of life—and each of these have implications for public health. The missions of state health agencies include protecting, promoting and improving the health of people—these outcomes are affected by transportation systems and policies. A growing number of state and local transportation and public health agencies are collaborating to improve public health and transportation system performance; this collaboration can contribute to an improved economy and quality of life.
The relationship between transportation and public health is complex, and manifests itself in a variety of ways and at various levels of decisionmaking. The transportation sector has conducted robust research to understand the impacts of transportation on air quality, safety, and noise. However, there are gaps in the understanding of transportation’s relationship to other areas of public health. Some of the under-researched areas include how transportation affects the social determinants of health, the health of underserved populations, equitable access to transportation services, and how performance measurement in both sectors can support better health outcomes. Addressing these gaps may require research in areas such as active transportation, multimodal connectivity, economic development, the built environment, land use, and how decisions made in each of these areas can improve public health outcomes.
Research is needed to provide transportation agencies with the information and tools necessary for integrating public health considerations into transportation agency decisionmaking and performance measurement at the policy, program, project, and operations levels. Given the relative newness of this topic for transportation agencies, and the evolving understanding of the importance of the relationship between transportation and public health, state DOTs are interested in identifying a “research roadmap” to guide systematic inquiry in this arena.
For purposes of this research, a research roadmap is defined as a type of strategic research plan that outlines the key opportunities and challenges associated with transportation and public health, identifies why they are important to transportation agencies, identifies gaps in knowledge and practice, and outlines and prioritizes specific research projects needed to address these gaps.