ENDURANCE - Mobility and health
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Dear reader,

we're happy to tell you that the ENDURANCE website is finally online! And now to our theme mobility and health:

One of the corner-stones of any Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) is its integrated approach of practices and policies between policy sectors. In this second ENDURANCE e-update, we will focus on the health sector as an area where many synergies with the mobility sector are to be found. We will highlight some good examples that illustrate the win-win of a collaboration between the two sectors, as well as examples of how the health theme can be integrated in SUMP.


Be healthy, get active

Source: www.eltis.org

Today, nobody doubts the health benefits of active travel modes such as walking and cycling. Inactivity contributes to a mortality burden comparable with tobacco smoking (source: WHO). By increasing physical activity levels, active travel modes reduce the risk of all-cause mortality, hypertension and type 2 diabetes - see this recent review – as well as stress, anxiety and depression. Places with much active travel obviously show lower obesity rates than areas with high levels of car use. Even the use of electrically assisted bicycles seems to be intense enough to meet the daily physical activity guidelines (see Simons et al., 2009).

Within the European project TAPAS, studies were conducted in 6 European cities to assess conditions and policies that promote or hinder active travel and the resulting health effects. A summary of all studies will be available spring next year (keep an eye on the TAPAS website) but some findings were already published. For instance, in Barcelona bike-sharing systems were found able to save up to 12 deaths per year and to lead to a reduction of 9,000 tons of CO2 emissions. (Full list of publications on TAPAS.)


Cleaning the air through active travel

Source: Wing-Chi Poon / CC BY-SA 3.0

Active travel also contributes to better air quality. Presently, one year of life expectancy is lost for every person in the WHO European Region due to exposure to particulate matter (PM), and 88% of people live in regions were PM levels surpass the WHO's recommanded threshold. The Interreg NWE project Joaquin (Joint Air Quality Initiative) is gathering new knowledge on air pollution, and will help authorities decide on the most efficient air quality improvement measures. But for city network Polis the balance is already clear: a shift to active mobility and public transport combined with improved land use can yield immediate health benefits, much greater than those achievable by focusing only on improving air quality through greater fuel and vehicle efficiencies (Polis position paper on securing the health benefits of active travel in Europe, 2012).

Cycling and walking also reduce the level of traffic-related noise, which costs at least one million healthy life years every year in the western part of Europe (Burden of disease from environmental noise, WHO).


Working towards common goals

Source: www.eltis.org

Benefits of policy integration in relation to transport, health and environment include the promotion of synergies (win-win solutions), consistency between policies in different sectors and reducing duplication in the policy-making process. The London Olympics legacy plan is a fine example of how policy objectives of different sectors can be achieved through the organization of a big sports event: it envisages a lasting impact on transport, health, quality of life, economy, welfare, education, sports, etc.

The PEP – the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme brings together key players from the transport, health and environment sectors on an equal footing. See their guidance document on the institutional conditions for policy integration.


Walk and cycle: it’s the law

Source: www.eltis.org

Over the past few years, the promotion of physical activity has increasingly been recognised in Europe as a priority for public health action. In Wales, the world’s first legislation on active travel was approved on 1 October 2013. This Active Travel Act calls on local authorities to promote active travel and to plan a comprehensive network of walking and cycling routes. Also in the UK, a new All-Party Commission on Physical Activity was recently launched to address the ‘physical inactivity epidemic’, looking at the whole rather than individual policy sectors: Health, Sport, Transport and Urban Planning, and Education.

In Finland, mobility and health are going hand in hand in different fields. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have been involved in funding mobility management projects through the Fit for Life programme. In the Mobility to worklife project (Liikettä työelämään) in the city of Turku for instance, the local environmental department cooperates with the health department and the local mobility management office as well as with the public transport office and a private insurance company.


Intersectoral collaboration on the local level

Source: www.eltis.org

Photo courtesy of the municipality of Gdynia

Within the URBACT project Active Travel Network (ATN) the departments of Road and Traffic, the one for Strategic Planning and Development as well as the Health department of the Danish City of Skanderborg worked together for the first time. They elaborated a joint strategy for enhancing active travel modes and started to implement measures, with active support and involvement of all relevant politicians (read more).

In Ghent, Belgium, the health, sports and mobility sectors all invested funds and addressed their networks to promote the guideline of walking 10,000 steps per day. After one year, the project monitored an 8% increase in the number of peoples reaching the 10,000 steps guideline, while a control group did not show any increase. The campaign was extended to the whole of the Flanders region, intersectoral collaboration remaining one of the key components of the concept (campaign website in Dutch).

In the SEGMENT project conducted by the municipality of Gdynia (Poland), the road administration cooperated with health centres for the very first time, in order to reach parents with newborns. The "New parents campaign" encouraged them to walk to the health centre with their children – and to walk more in general. A poster campaign portrayed walking as a stylish and trendy way to stay fit and to show off in the new role of "mum".

In more than 100 municipalities in Andalucia, Spain, doctors in local health centres prescribe the regular use of particular pedestrian and cycle routes to their patients (Rutas para una vida sana, ES). The local Health Departments in charge of these projects are also very active in the SUMP process in their municipalities.


French SUMPs with a focus on health

© P. Bogner / Cus, www.strasbourg.eu

Active modes and their link with health, are only recently taken into account in French PDU’s (Plan de déplacements urbains, the French designation of SUMP – read more on 30 years of PDU). A good example in this respect is the draft Strasbourg PDU (FR). Walking, cycling and their link with health make up the first three topics of the PDU. Several actions aim to raise awareness in citizens on cycling and walking, such as road signs indicating walking and cycling times to several destinations and promoting the benefits of active travel amongst health professionals to increase the integration between health and mobility policies. The Lille PDU (FR) combines health with environmental and safety issues by focusing on the atmospheric impacts of mobility, road noise pollution and the creation of a safe environment for travellers.


Urban design for healthy places

Source: www.eltis.org

There is a growing body of research showing a connection between our health and wellbeing and the design and structure of our towns, cities and regions. That is why the Australian Healthy Spaces & Places initiative bundled advice from experts in health, planning, urban design, community safety and transport planning to create places that facilitate physical activity and positive mental health (List of case studies). Also in Australia, the New South Wales Ministry of Health is funding the Healthy Built Environments Program with $1.5 million over 5 years to revitalise the relationship between the built environment and health professions.

From the observation that little research has been done to assess the impact of interventions which combine changes to the physical environment with promotional activities for walking, the British Fitter for Walking project worked with deprived communities using this dual approach.


The economy will benefit too

The WHO pleads for more use of economic evidence in environmental health decision-making. The recently established WHO Environmental Health Economics Network (EHEN) will use its members’ expertise and experience to promote such work, in preparation for WHO’s Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, planned for 2016. See the report of the first expert symposium here.

The WHO’s HEAT tool (2009, online version here) – a tool to monetise the economic benefits from the reduced mortality due to walking and cycling – has already been used in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Sweden, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The HEAT has gone on to become the standard approach used by transport planners in the UK. The European Cycling Federation used the tool to calculate that cycling in the EU produces annual economic benefits of € 200 billion, more than half of which is produced by health benefits.


News from related projects: BUMP

The EU project BUMP – Boosting Urban Mobility Plans offers local authorities with a population ranging from 40,000 to 350,000 inhabitants a comprehensive free-of-charge package including training; sharing of know-how; and support for the drafting of SUMPs. The project will part-fund the participants' travel, subsistence and accommodation costs.


Sources for further reading:


Upcoming events

  • 5th Transport Research Arena TRA2014
    13-16 April 2014 – Paris, France
    • In parallel: The PEP - 4th High-level Meeting Transport, Health and Environment
      14-16 April 2014 – Paris, France
  • ECOMM 2014 Florence
    European Conference on Mobility Management
    7-9 May 2014, Florence, Italy
  • mobil.TUM 2014 Conference
    19-20 May 2014 – Munich, Germany

For more events, please visit the EPOMM Calendar.

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