853. A shift from motorised travel to active transport: What are the potential health gains for an Australian city?
Commentary: Sheree Hughes, National Heart Foundation of Australia
Physical inactivity, as a risk factor for chronic disease, is a significant economic burden at the population level. Making an economic case for increasing active transport (walking, cycling and public transport) may reduce the burden of physical inactivity on the health system. However, there has been little conclusive evidence of the return on investment in active transport modes in Australia to date. As is often the case, current research in this area includes methodological inconsistencies across studies, making the case for investing more in active transport a hard-sell to all levels of government. This article looks at the potential health gains and savings for the Brisbane community if the current active transport targets for the region were actually achieved.
There has long been support for the potential for transport and urban planning to contribute to increased physical activity in our communities. This study set out to prove that a significant shift in the percentage of people using active transport modes would indeed produce health benefit and cost savings to the community. The researchers looked into the number of health-adjusted life years, life years, changes in the burden of disease and injuries, and the health care costs associated with changes in physical activity, fine particle (<2.5 μm; PM2.5) exposure, and road trauma attributable to a shift from motorised travel to active transport. The result of achieving the proposed active transport targets by 2026 would deliver substantial net savings in health care costs $AU183 million in fact!
While this would be fantastic, the 2026 active transport targets for the region are already stretched targets. Without significant policy and investment changes, effective resource distribution and initiatives to address the required shift to active transport this will not be realised.
This research reinforces the economic burden associated with physical inactivity, and highlights the need for investment in active transport modes to address this issue in the community. It also concludes if the current active transport targets for the region were actually achieved, the economic benefit to the region would produce significant return on investment for years to come. This makes active transport an attractive investment to decrease the burden on the health system. The study also recognises current limitations regarding consistency of other existing studies, prompting the need for strong research to support policy changes, effective resource distribution and initiatives to address the Australian transport and health challenges.
Source: PLoS ONE, 12: e0184799. Access to this article will depend on your institutional rights: Access the full article.