When Health & Transportation come together

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Oregon Health Authority, Public Health Division (OHA-PHD) established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in late 2013, where both agree to “communicate, coordinate and collaborate on activities that support their mutual goal to improve the link between public health and transportation policies and programs in Oregon.”

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Both groups recognize that transportation is intrinsically linked with health and that social determinants of health, such as living conditions and travel behaviors, are a key factor in the overall health of the population. The MOU identifies that ODOT and OHA-PHD will work together to meet Oregonian’s mobility and health needs through:

  • Shared communication and planning
  • Shared encouragement of active transportation
  • Collaborative research and data analysis
  • Leverage resource and funding opportunities

Both the amount of physical activity that one can get by traveling actively, as well as the effect on air quality, and thus respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, for example, is directly related to how we build our transportation system. For everyone, but especially children, building active travel into their everyday routes has benefits beyond getting a breath of fresh air — it actually primes them to be better learners.

In a world where people of all ages and abilities in our region cannot always travel safely and actively to reach their daily destinations, this MOU is a welcome start in the process of having these agencies think of the bigger picture — and actually work together on it — when developing programs, and planning or retrofitting infrastructure. It has the potential for both agencies to recognize new, bigger and better ways of collaborating on healthy travel options for people of all ages, and demonstrates a commitment to looking at how we travel as a direct way to keep our region’s population healthy.

Stay tuned.

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