The known health benefits of regular physical activity are far-reaching: reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases; lower health care costs; improved mental health and resiliency; and improved quality of life and ability to live independently for people of all ages.

While individuals may choose to walk or bike more often to help meet their own personal physical activity or fitness goals, it is also important that the built environment provide support and opportunities for safe, comfortable active travel. In rural or low-income areas, many individuals may lack access to gyms or fitness centers that provide opportunities for physical activity; thus, well-designed and located sidewalks, bike facilities, and shared use paths become even more critical in supporting community health.

Many transportation and public health agencies have recognized the important role that transportation policies, programs, and projects play in enabling healthy and active forms of travel, as well as the broader public health benefits that these can have. There are many tools and examples available to transportation agencies to support the integration of health considerations in their decision-making processes. For example, many agencies are applying Health Impact Assessment studies to assess transportation projects positive or negative impact on health. Others are adopting a Health in All Policies approach to holistically consider ways to meet their community's health needs. There are also many examples of partnerships and coalitions involving planners, transportation staff, and the health community to advance health initiatives.

Resources

Moving Healthy: Linking FHWA Programs to Health summarizes FHWA programs and funding sources and ways in which health may be advanced within them.

The Transportation and Health Tool provides access to data that practitioners can use to identify health impacts of transportation projects and systems.

VOLPE's two-part white paper series demonstrates opportunities statewide and at the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) level to incorporate health into transportation planning.

APA's Healthy Communities Policy Guide and related document, Metrics for Planning Healthy Communities, highlight the role that transportation planning and policy-making can play on health and offer guiding definitions, policies, and performance metrics.

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Examples

Measuring what we value: Policies to prioritize public health and build prosperous regions provides case studies of regional planning agencies in improving physical activity and health.

Building healthy and prosperous communities provides case studies of metropolitan areas implementing projects to advance health.

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