Transportation Access Is a Public Health Issue

An expert discusses the public health implications of the CDC’s new finding that 5.7 percent of Americans face unreliable transportation.

2 minute read

January 28, 2024, 9:00 AM PST

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon


According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released earlier this month, 15 million of American adults—5.7% of the adult population—don’t have access to reliable transportation. Why is the CDC conducting a study on transportation, you might ask? Because lack of transportation isn’t just a mobility issue; it also has far-reaching public health implications, writes Aleyna Rentz in Medical Xpress.

“Previous research has suggested a lack of transportation, especially among adults who are older, uninsured, and have lower incomes, leads to reduced access to health care, which may then lead to adverse health outcomes,” the CDC report said.

Rentz spoke about the findings with Megan Latshaw, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has examined the health and environmental impacts of unreliable transportation in Baltimore.

People don’t just need transportation to get to doctor’s appointments, Latshaw pointed out, but also to access healthy food, education, and jobs, which also affects people’s health and ability to access quality health care. America’s high reliance on cars has also been tied to health issues caused by air pollution from vehicle emissions, she said.

“We've built America around cars. If you want to get anywhere in the U.S., unless you live in a downtown area, you need to jump in your car to get there. It's unsustainable, and it's not healthy, so we need to figure out a way to move past cars. Doing so will reduce air pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, and also get people walking and biking. And when you take public transportation, it's a social activity, if you think about it,” Latshaw told Rentz.

For better public health, Latshaw said, we need to focus on building better public transit instead of widening highways. “President Hoover had a campaign ad mentioning a car in every yard and a chicken in every pot. I'd like to see an ad calling for ‘a transit stop near every home.’ Not just a transit stop near your home, but a reliable transit system where it's going to come on time and an app that has live feed data. We need to make transit the easy choice, as opposed [to] cars.”

Monday, January 22, 2024 in Medical Xpress

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