January 23, 2024
Affordable Transportation's Role in Healthy Communities
A 2021 health policy brief funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded affordable transportation services are an important driver of health equity. The impact of low-cost transportation goes far beyond the need for cheap transportation to get to work.
According to the health policy brief, new or expanded public transportation options can contribute to a healthy community by improving access to medical care, healthy food, vital services, employment and social connection. The policy brief also found that a lack of access to affordable transportation disproportionately harms those who rely on it, including older adults, individuals with disabilities and commuters. Among commuters, women, younger adult Black workers and low-income workers are most affected.
What is transportation equity?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Equity in transportation seeks fairness in mobility and accessibility to meet the
"Every year, 3.6 million people in the U.S. do not receive medical care because of transportation issues, resulting in missed or delayed health care appointments, increased health expenditures and overall poorer health outcomes.”
needs of all community members.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says an equitable transportation policy can support health and reduce health care costs by:
- Promoting safe and convenient opportunities for physical activity.
- Reducing injuries associated with motor vehicle crashes.
- Providing access to jobs, health care, social interaction and healthy foods.
Lack of transportation affects medical care
Difficulty obtaining medical care is a key issue noted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in its report titled Social Determinants of Health Series: Transportation and the Role of Hospitals. According the AHA, every year, 3.6 million people in the U.S. do not receive medical care because of transportation issues, resulting in missed or delayed health care appointments, increased health expenditures and overall poorer health outcomes.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation quotes research suggesting that an estimated 20% of a person’s health can be attributed to clinical care; an estimated 30% can be attributed to health behaviors such as diet and exercise; 10% to the physical environment, including air and water quality, housing and transit. The remaining 40% is related to social and economic factors such as education, employment and income.
Transportation equity issues in Des Moines
A 2022 survey of Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) customers found that while the majority of riders used the public transit system for work, 3% indicated they use DART for essential services like health and medical appointments. In fiscal year 2021, DART provided more than 111,000 rides to aging residents through paratransit, the system’s door-to-door service.
Additionally, of the DART riders surveyed, 30% earn less than $12,000 per household annually. DART serves a higher percentage of low-income persons, people of color, veterans and individuals with disabilities compared to the overall population.
Without a dedicated support network to rely upon, or expert help navigating the systems, challenges like transportation can become setbacks that last a lifetime. EveryStep’s diversity and scope of programs helps ensure a variety of needs – including transportation – can be met at once, along with providing ongoing assistance over time.
By offering people the connections and resources they need, we foster a healthier, more equitable future. Your donation to EveryStep, even a small one, demonstrates that you believe in a community where people show up for one another. Please consider donating today to strengthen Iowa’s care and support network.