Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

A different route to health: implications of transport policies

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 19 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1686
  1. Carlos Dora, regional advisrr environmental epidemiology
  1. World Health Organisation, European Centre for Environment and Health, Rome Division, 00187 Rome, Italy

    Editorials by Brundtland and Pershagen

    Travel—how, where, and how often we do it—has major implications for the health of individuals and of the population.1 Transport activities impact on health, both negatively and positively; and transport policies are now a key determinant of health. Health has to be included on the transport policy agenda if gains are to be achieved, and health professionals have a key role in this. In this article on the implications of transport policies, I draw on an extensive review to which many experts contributed and which will soon be published as a book by the World Health Organisation. I also draw on the preparatory work for the charter on transport, environment, and health2 which was adopted at the ministerial conference on environment and health held in London this week.

    Summary points

    • Transport policies have important health consequences through their effects on air pollution, noise, injuries, climatic change, and their ability to create (or not) safe conditions for walking and cycling

    • These health consequences affect most of the population, not just transport users

    • Estimates of the health impacts and costs of transport strategies do not include the health effects of increased walking and cycling and the savings associated with increased walking and cycling for a population

    • The burden of transport on health is higher than expected, partly because users do not pay the full costs of the transport activities they engage in

    • The public and policy makers need to be informed about the health consequences of individual travel choices and of policies on transport and land use planning

    • Health professionals have a key role in providing this information and assessing the health impacts of transport policies

    Health impacts

    Physical activity

    Cycling or walking can bring major health benefits—half an hour a day can halve the risk of developing heart disease. This …

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