Obesity – What’s transportation got to do with it?
Today is Transportation Advocacy Day in Washington state. It’s a day that brings together advocates from around the state to ensure that legislators in Olympia know what a fair, equitable, safe multi-modal transportation system means to Washington. Among the organizations voicing their support to our state leaders today, you will find important bike, transit, and pedestrian transportation advocates like the Transportation Choices Coalition, Washington Bikes, Cascade Bicycle Club, Feet First and others. But it may surprise some to find obesity prevention advocates among this crowd of advocates as well… we’ll be honest: we get some ‘double takes’ from time to time!
Each year, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (COPC) makes supporting and participating in Transportation Advocacy Day one of its top priorities. This year, COPC was invited to conduct two workshops on obesity prevention and transportation. You may not know that transportation policy can have a major impact on the daily physical activity of children and adults. Communities with effective transit, safer streets, ample sidewalks and bike lines tend to be more active communities, and therefore can see lower obesity rates among their community members. The infographic below (click to enlarge) from Active Living Research shows just a few examples of how improved community design has impacted health throughout the country, including in Washington state.
The link between transportation and health is so important to us that COPC has included transportation issues in its policy, systems and legislative priorities over the past few years. Since we began forming strong relationships with transportation advocacy partners (several of whom are now members of our Coalition), we have seen several successes. Most recently, we successfully advocated for the Neighborhood Safe Speeds bill (HB 1045 – Ryu), allowing towns and cities to lower speed limits to 20 MPH on non-arterial streets without seeking approval from the state.
We are pleased to report that COPC, along with some of our key transportation partners, has been awarded a grant from Voices for Healthy Kids – a new initiative of the American Heart Association – to sustain and increase funding for Safe Routes to Schools programs throughout Washington state. Part of the work of this grant will be working with our allies to ensure that elected officials understand the importance of Safe Routes to Schools programs, and their impact on health as well as economic development. COPC couldn’t be more excited to receive this critical and prestigious grant, and we can’t wait to tell you about our progress – chances are that we will be looking to YOU to add your voice and support, so stay tuned.
COPC staff and members have been pleased to see those looks of surprise when we speak out about transportation decline over the past few years. There’s still much work to do, but our partnerships have never been stronger and our resolve to improve communities for the sake of our health has never looked so promising. From our members to you – we wish you a healthy Transportation Advocacy Day!