brown-bettertransport-2019.pdf (1.26 MB)
Better transport accessibility, better health: a health economic impact assessment study for Melbourne, Australia
journal contributionposted on 2019-10-22, 00:00 authored by Victoria BrownVictoria Brown, A Barr, J Scheurer, Annette Magnus, B Zapata-Diomedi, R Bentley
Background: Physical inactivity is a global public health problem, partly due to urbanization and increased use of passive modes of transport such as private motor vehicles. Improving accessibility to public transport could be an effective policy for Governments to promote equity and efficiency within transportation systems, increase population levels of physical activity and reduce the negative externalities of motor vehicle use. Quantitative estimates of the health impacts of improvements to public transport accessibility may be useful for resource allocation and priority-setting, however few studies have been published to inform this decision-making. This paper aims to estimate the physical activity, obesity, injury, health and healthcare cost-saving outcomes of scenario-based improvements to public transport accessibility in Melbourne, Australia. Methods: Baseline and two hypothetical future scenario estimates of improved public transport accessibility for Melbourne, Australia, were derived using a spatial planning and decision tool designed to simulate accessibility performance (the Spatial Network Analysis for Multimodal Urban Transport Systems (SNAMUTS)). Public transport related physical activity was quantified by strata of age group and sex from Melbourne travel survey data (VISTA survey) and used with the SNAMUTS Composite Index to estimate input data for health impact modelling for the Melbourne population aged 20-74 years. A proportional multi-state, multiple cohort lifetable Markov model quantified the potential health gains and healthcare cost-savings from estimated changes in physical activity, body weight and injuries related to walking to access/egress public transport under two scenarios: (S1) public transport accessibility under current policy directions, and (S2) multi-directional, high-frequency network improvements. Results: Multi-directional, high-frequency improvements to the public transport network (S2) resulted in significantly greater health and economic gains than current policy directions (S1) in relation to physical activity (mean 6.4 more MET minutes/week), body weight (mean 0.05 kg differential), health-adjusted life years gained (absolute difference of 4878 HALYs gained) and healthcare cost-savings (absolute difference of AUD43M), as compared to business as usual under both scenarios (n = 2,832,241 adults, over the lifecourse). Conclusions: Based on our conservative analyses, improving accessibility to public transport will improve population health by facilitating physical activity and lead to healthcare cost savings compared with business-as-usual. These wider health benefits should be better considered in transport planning and policy decisions.