Opinion: To Improve Health Outcomes, Invest in Public Transit

A medical student calls for improving public transit to boost the health of people and the environment.

1 minute read

March 3, 2024, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Elderly man and granddaughter standing on public bus.

bernardbodo / Adobe Stock

In an opinion piece in The Equation, Harvard medical student Aroub Yousuf argues that access to public transit is key to improving public health. In addition to greenhouse gases, “Conventional cars, trucks and buses also emit fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide, all of which are associated with respiratory irritation, infection, and chronic disease.”

As Yousuf explains, “I see the direct impact that this cocktail of pollutants has on the increasing severity of respiratory conditions in patients, all while knowing that this same source of pollution is destroying the health of the planet.”

Yousuf notes that public transportation has the potential to keep people healthier, both by reducing harmful emissions and by leading to more physical activity in getting to and from stations and “increased access to public transportation has been shown to improve mental health outcomes in older adults, decreasing feelings of social isolation.”

Yousuf calls on public officials to invest in public transit and view it as a public good rather than a for-profit enterprise. “Investing in reliable, accessible transit service is essential—not only to the 10 million US households who don’t own a vehicle, but also as the bedrock for thriving communities and a better quality of life for all.”

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