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Frequently Asked Questions

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How does transportation affect public health?

A. The transportation system helps shape how communities operate, and it can have a profound influence - both positive and negative - on public health. Transportation impacts air pollution and the environment, communities, safety, physical activity, and access to jobs, services, healthcare, and recreational opportunities. When practitioners consider health in the transportation planning process, they can mitigate the negative health impacts of transportation by reducing air pollution, preventing traffic injuries and deaths, and promoting physical activity.

When properly planned and designed transportation can have a positive effect on public health. Today planners and engineers are working hard to accommodate or even encourage multi modal transportation, such as through complete streets policies that incorporate walking and biking.

How is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) considering health in transportation decisionmaking?

A. While considering health is not explicitly part of the federally required transportation planning process, FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recognize the impact of transportation infrastructure on public health, and support State departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that consider health throughout the transportation planning process. To this end, FHWA recently published a report on the consideration of health throughout the MPO transportation planning process based on a series of four case studies. The resulting document, Metropolitan Area Transportation Planning for Healthy Communities, is a helpful resource that transportation planners can use to positively impact health through metropolitan transportation planning. Furthermore, FHWA supports improvement to livability and community health by funding transportation projects and sponsoring activities like the FHWA Livability Initiative.

What Federal transportation programs can help improve the health of communities?

A. A number of Federal initiatives, working groups, and funding programs are available to support transportation strategies that improve public health. U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) programs with connections to public health include:

For more information on these initiatives and other FHWA or FTA programs that intersect with public health, see FHWA's Moving Healthy: Linking FHWA Programs and Health.

How can transportation agencies incorporate health into transportation decisionmaking?

A. Health can be considered throughout the transportation planning and environmental review processes. Below are several examples of tools and opportunities to introduce health considerations directly into transportation decisions.

What is a health impact assessment (HIA) and can it be used to evaluate transportation projects?

A. A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a tool that policymakers, community members, and planners can use to identify and address the potential health effects of a proposed transportation project or policy during the early stages of decisionmaking. An HIA is a method of evaluating the impacts policies, plans, programs, and projects on the health of populations. Because of the wide-ranging impact of transportation infrastructure, the application of HIAs to transportation policy and land use planning can lead to decisions that promote health in a number of different ways. HIAs are not required as part of the Federal-Aid planning or environmental review processes, but practitioners may prepare them voluntarily. For more information about HIAs, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Transportation HIA Toolkit.

Updated: 02/28/2014
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