October 6, 2016
New study from MDH looks at transportation plans as part of road to stronger community health
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today released a new Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that looks at how proposed changes in the state’s master transportation plan may affect the health of Minnesota communities. The document also considers how the state’s transportation system can be improved to help foster the health of all Minnesotans.
Available on the MDH website at MDH Health Impact Assessment Reports, the HIA was conducted in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) on MnDOT’s 2017 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan revision. This plan is Minnesota’s highest level policy plan for transportation, and is updated every four years. The analysis and findings of the HIA illustrate how transportation systems influence community health in a variety of ways, including by affecting access to jobs, services, health care, healthy foods, and recreation. The HIA provides evidence-based recommendations to promote health through Minnesota transportation plan updates.
Public comment on the 2017 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan update is being accepted by MnDOT until Oct. 14. This will be the final opportunity for the public to provide input on the updated plan.
The HIA specifically examined the potential health impacts of proposed changes to Transportation Safety, Healthy Communities, and Critical Connections. The HIA also identifies places in the SMTP that support equity and suggests additional ways the transportation planning process can be amended to promote a more equitable and health-minded transportation system.
“Our health status is influenced by our transportation system,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Edward Ehlinger said. “Continued partnership between our agencies and across jurisdictions can help ensure transportation policies are developed with full consideration of the potential impacts on health.”
MDH will continue to support MnDOT’s review and implementation of the HIA recommendations, which could have substantial positive impacts on the health of Minnesotans. Key recommendations include the following:
- Expand the understanding of what it means to be safe, to include crime and other factors that influence active transportation.
- Review existing maintenance agreements for sidewalks to ensure safe travel by all ages and abilities, especially in the winter.
- Increase the availability and systematic use of automated bicycle and pedestrian counters to better understand usage and safety.
- Develop guidelines for planning transportation projects that include using health data and community engagement best practices.
- Continue to work towards shifting travelers to active transportation modes by providing convenient, safe, and connected walking, biking, and transit infrastructure.
- Work with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to identify effective strategies to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector to meet the Next Generation Energy Act goals.
- Explore the potential utility of new models and tools that capture the social and health benefits and costs of transportation projects.
- Work with transit agencies, the Metropolitan Council, and cities to review and revise transit agencies’ formal policies to ban alcohol advertisements on transit property by 2020.
- Define what equity means in transportation and include transportation equity in the Minnesota GO vision.
- Study, document, and report on inequities in Minnesota’s transportation system and define MnDOT’s role in reducing them.
“Transportation as a public investment should work to achieve multiple benefits,” MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle said. “Our vision is a transportation system that maximizes the health of people, the environment, and our economy. Our collaboration with MDH is helping ensure that our updated plans embrace health in all policies and shape a statewide transportation system that advances the opportunity for all people in Minnesota to live in healthy communities.”
Since 2009, MDH has led seven HIA projects and provided technical assistance on an additional 11 Minnesota HIAs led by other organizations. An HIA is a systematic process that uses an array of data sources, analytical methods, community and stakeholder input to uncover the connections between health and a proposed program, policy, or plan. It describes the potential health impacts, including the populations most affected, and makes recommendations to maximize health benefits and minimize potential health risks.
More information about the MnDOT Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan and how to provide input can be found on the Minnesota GO website at MnDOT Draft Plans.