Written by Dr. Helena Swinkels
A transportation system that supports us to be active and gives us options beyond driving is a pressing need for our growing region. We usually think of a transportation system as just a way to ‘get around’ but it does much more, with many direct and indirect effects on our health.
Our transportation system has countless direct effects on our health. The type of transportation we use affects how much exercise we get. We know from studies in other North American and international cities that people who spend more time in a car each day are more likely to be obese, while daily walking reduces the risk of obesity. Predominantly car-based transportation makes us more likely to get in a traffic crash or be exposed to air pollution. If twice as many people walk or bike in a community we reduce the risk of being struck by a vehicle by two thirds.
Transportation systems also have many indirect health effects, influencing whether we can get to health care and other services and stay active in the community or maintain important social connections. Compared with residents of car-oriented neighbourhoods, residents of walkable, mixed-use areas are more likely to have strong social ties and know and trust their neighbours.
Communities built around the car ignore the needs of those without vehicles including children, some seniors, those with disabilities and people unable to afford a vehicle. For these people, the transit system, or lack of transit, affects their quality of life as everyday destinations are beyond their reach. Limited or expensive transport options can reduce employment and education options, and limit access to healthy food, health care and social services.
Cities are now rising to the challenge of rethinking how we plan our neighbourhoods and transportation systems to benefit everyone. In order to build cities that encourage the use of transit and active transportation, such as walking and cycling, good local data is needed. The My Health My Community Survey aims to do just that. Launched by Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC, the My Health My Community
survey will help us understand how our lifestyles, our communities and our neighbourhoods affect our overall health and wellbeing,
Please take the time to respond to the survey, and let friends, family and colleagues know of this opportunity.
With your responses in hand, we will be better equipped to design cities and transportation systems that are happier, healthier, and more resilient and that will offer a choice on how to travel and how to live.
Residents of the Fraser Health region who complete the survey before Apr. 20th have extra chances to win iPads and Gift Cards up to $250 with the promo code ‘MY HEALTH’.
Take the survey now and help shape the future of your community at https://www.myhealthmycommunity.org/