Supporting the Synergy of Health and Transportation Planning

Christy SmithAs we continue to hear more about the intersection of transportation and health issues nationally, Tennessee is making a concerted effort to cultivate this important partnership. Recently, I had the opportunity to witness and participate in this collaboration. 

In January 2013 the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency (RPA), as a part of the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan - Community Advisory Committee and Core Technical Team, held a meeting to get stakeholders to weigh in on which types of transportation projects are important to the future of the region. Representatives from municipalities, engineers, planners, city managers, community members, and local health department were in attendance. The highest ranking official from the county health department joined the meeting along with staff who work in community health. These health department representatives were invited by the RPA and took hours out of their day to ensure that health was a consideration in this planning process.

One week later, I attended a meeting at the Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department for the Partnership for Healthy Living (PHL), where I was excited to see that staff from the RPA had been invited and were active participants in the planning process for a health department program-exemplifying the synergy between health and transportation. The health department used a transportation planning exercise and adapted it to their health-based objectives, with leaders from the city parks department, local hospitals, the university, organic garden owners, and transportation planners going through a series of planning exercises led by the health departments’ “Optimize with Nutrition and Exercise” program manager. 

The importance of bringing health and transportation partners to the table during community planning initiatives is acknowledged and implemented in Tennessee. I am thrilled to be part of the process, representing the Safe Routes to School National Partnership Tennessee Network and appreciate that the local community recognizes the advantage of having the Safe Routes to School National Partnership at the table as an advocate to support the synergy between health and transportation planning. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership objectives are perfectly aligned with health and transportation. Specifically, our mission to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities is supported by our objectives to increase physical activity by improving the built environment in communities. These objectives were addressed at both meetings, with discussion around facilitating street-scale improvements, advancing shared use agreements, increasing the capacity for data collection and evaluation, building the capacity for leadership, advancing social equity, and assuring sustainability. To see the entire Action Plan for the Tennessee Network or to become a Network member, please visit the Tennessee page on Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s website.

It is great to know that in Tennessee partnerships are strategically working to ensure communities can grow into healthy, safe places for residents to walk, bike and live, and it is a pleasure to be a part of the process!

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