We just read a recently released report by the American Public Health Association on public health costs associated with transportation. The report documents the costs of poor transport policies, including the $142 billion the country pays in costs from obesity, the $50 billion from traffic-related air pollution and $180 billion from traffic crashes. The report outlines how health impact assessments can be used to improve the situation, and recommends increased investment in biking and walking, among other ideas.
Park systems can play a big role in fixing the transportation-public health problems now facing us. Children and adults who can’t reach their nearby parks are going to be less healthy, not to mention deprived of some level of sociability. This means that cities need to create walkable community design and safe streets that do not pose a threat of injury to get to parks and recreation facilities, and include such factors in health impact assessments.
Also, park systems in themselves are a part of the transportation network. A study by Amy Zlot and Tom Schmid published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2005 showed that communities with more parks had significantly higher levels of walking and bicycling for transportation. The trails, parkways and internal park pathways are used by residents to bike to work, run errands and recreate — and this use contributes positively to their health. We offered some ways park systems can conquer connectivity to make this happen, and including these efforts in health-related planning can also be a part of the solution.