Planning for good health: MAPC’s health impact assessment of proposed changes to the T

Yesterday, MAPC released the results of our health impacts assessment of proposed MBTA fare increases and service cuts in the Healthy T for a Healthy Region (PDF) report at a State House press conference.

Just last week, Atlantic Cities wrote about the importance of considering the public health impacts of planning projects:

“By the time policymakers rouse support, local agencies rally funding, and land-use and transportation professionals exchange designs there’s no one left to determine exactly how it will impact the health of those it’s meant to serve in the first place.”

Performing a health impacts assessment lets us see the long-term public health effects of a project right from the get-go, and can help make the case for moving it forward (or holding it back). Thanks to the Healthy T report, we now know that in addition to the economic and environmental impacts of the proposed MBTA changes, there could be significant public health risks as well.

The report looked at each of the MBTA’s budget scenario’s impacts on the level of  physical activity for people in the region; and the pollution, loss of productivity, and accidents that could result from an increase of cars on the road. Overall, the report found that MBTA budget proposals could result in the loss of 10 to 15 lives per year. Check out our infographic below for a breakdown of these impacts.

The Atlantic Cities article noted the need for more agencies to do health impacts assessments of planning projects, which can ultimately act as a  preventative health measure:

“It crosses everything from prevention to cure. Unlike our approach historically, which is you feel bad so you go to the doctor, we’re saying, before you get there, let’s do this.”

Kudos to the authors of the study, including MAPC Public Health Manager Mariana Arcaya, who is also a social epidemiology doctoral candidate at Harvard School of Public Health.

Download the report summary (PDF)

Download the full version of the Healthy T for a Healthy Region report (PDF)

MAPC health impacts assessment infographic