Environmental Health News

UW Researcher Takes Part in Study on Urban Planning and Public Health

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headshot of Andrew Dannenberg

“We need cars for many functions,” said Andrew Dannenberg, “but we need a better balance of how transportation infrastructure resources are spent to get the full co-benefits of walking, biking and public transit.” Dannenberg collaborated on a three-part series on urban design, transport, and health in The Lancet.

Photo:

Courtesy of Andrew Dannenberg.

Well-planned cities that encourage walking, cycling and use of public transportation will help address significant global health challenges, says an international group of researchers in a paper in The Lancet.

Transport is a determinant of health that contributes to health inequities within and between cities, researchers note. To create healthier, more equitable communities, researchers suggest policies are needed that reduce private motor vehicle use and prioritize alternative modes of transport.

“We’re not anti-automobile,” says Andrew Dannenberg, affiliate professor in our department. “We need cars for many functions, but we need a better balance of how transportation infrastructure resources are spent to get the full co-benefits of walking, biking and public transit.”
Such co-benefits include physical activity, air quality, injury prevention, mental health, social capital and social equity, he adds. Dannenberg, who is also an affiliate professor of urban design and planning at the UW, is a co-author of the paper—the first in a three-part series called “Urban Design, Transport and Health,” published September 23.

Researchers reviewed 20 years of literature as well as their own research on the health impacts of city planning through transportation mode choices. In the paper, authors identify eight interventions:

  • Destination accessibility
  • Equitable distribution of employment across cities
  • Managing demand by reducing the availability and increasing the cost of parking
  • Designing pedestrian-friendly and cycling-friendly movement networks
  • Achieving optimum levels of residential density
  • Reducing distance to public transport
  • Enhancing the desirability of active travel modes

“Together, these interventions will create healthier and more sustainable, compact cities,” the authors write, “that reduce the environmental, social and behavioral risk factors that affect lifestyle choices, levels of environmental pollution, noise and crime.”

Billie Giles-Corti and Mark Stevenson of the University of Melbourne are lead authors of the series, and Giles-Corti is lead on this paper, together with several international experts in public health and transportation planning as co-authors.

Other co-authors on the first paper in the series are from the University of California, San Diego; Washington University in St. Louis; Pontifical Catholic University of Parana and Federal University of Parana, in Brazil; Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia; the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia; and the Australian Catholic University, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Swinburne University of Technology, all of Melbourne, Australia.

Return to 2017, Issue #1 issue