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Health equity and transportation

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An introduction to our series on the connections between transportation and health equity

Transportation and Health Equity series, Part 1


Editors note: Although most of our posts are about helping Portland commuters make inexpensive, active, and sustainable choices to get to work, ocassionally we discuss transportation policy matters. Over the next several weeks, our colleague Sara Schooley will provide short essays on health equity and its connection to transportation.

Hello Commuter Central Blog Readers!  Your regular authors graciously offered to turn over bits of their blog to a topic that has gotten much publicity both locally and nationally in the recent past – health equity. 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll look to explain the concept of health equity, connect it to transportation and what the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is doing as we speak (ummm, type and/or read), and hopefully inspire you to learn more about the topic.

But before we delve too far into the intriguing word of health equity, a word from our sponsors…

The Multnomah County Health Department (MCHD) awarded PBOT a grant in order to further integrate health and health equity into transportation planning (we’ll learn more about what this means later).  This money traveled to MCHD through a couple of filters, first designated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and then passed to the Centers for Disease Control for distribution. 

The CDC allocated the money to communities in order to start and/or support efforts that combat obesity and tobacco use. Multnomah County received $7.5 million from the CDC and has been distributing that money to community organizations that are working to combat obesity

Read Part II: What's the problem?

Read Part III: Obesity, Race and Equity

Read Part IV: What makes health?

Read Part V: Can transportation make you live longer

Part VI: Your Neighborhood and Your Health

Part VII: Opportunities to Impact Health Equity


Spring renewal

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We've advocated before for slow commuting, but amidst the rain and gust, it seems worth noting that when traveling by foot, the coming spring is evident.

As I try to do once a week to clear my head, this morning I left my bike in the basement and took the 30 minute walk from home to the MAX. I was greeted by my botanic savior, the early blooming daphne. You often smell the daphne before you see them, and their fragrance this morning reassured me that this punchy winter is on its last legs.

When we slow down we are more likely to appreciate subtleties in our neighborhood - and even in a our seemingly interminable winter.

Integrating a walking into your commute is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying your neighborhood or city. In the next week, we should see blooms on our native Red Flowering Currant and Indian Plum. And before we know, we'll see the sprouts of lettuce and collards in our neighobors' gardens.

Image courtesy of Stranges Garden Center



Health and equity: What's the problem?

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Transportation and Health Equity Series, Part 2

America is a world leader in medical research and medical care.  Even here in Portland, our medical prowess is visible.  Doctors and scientists at Oregon Health and Science Institute are making amazing discoveries every day and continually wow me with their brain power.

So with this knowledge, why are the following true?

  • America is not even in the top ten countries in the world for life expectancy.  We’re number 29 behind countries like Bosnia and Jordan.  Fifty years ago, we were in the top five.  Ugh.
  • The current generation of children in America are predicted to have shorter life expectancies than their parents.  This hasn’t happened in over 200 years.

So seriously, what’s going on?  Much of the dreariness of the above points can be attributed to the high rates of obesity that are occurring in today’s society.  And to bring you down further with obesity statistics…

  • One in three children is overweight or obese.
  • In 2009, only one state (Colorado) was at the obesity level as the most overweight states in 2000.  Visually, the color change between the maps is alarming.

Obesity map produced by the Centers for Disease Control


Okay, so we get it.  We’re obese and it's getting worse.  Obesity leads to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and on and on.  It’s killing us and our children.

But on top of this trend there’s HEALTH EQUITY, which will be defined in the next entry.  I apologize for the ‘downer’ nature of this entry and will woo you with the promise that there is a hopeful end to this series of write-ups.  Just stick with me. 

This entry is part of our Transportation and Health Equity series by guest author Sara Schooley.


Read the other posts in the series: 

Part I: Introduction

Part III: Obesity, Race and Equity

Part IV: What makes health?

Part V: Can transportation make you live longer

Part VI: Your Neighborhood and Your Health

Part VII: Opportunities to Impact Health Equity

Maplewood Walks!

Maplewood K-5's "Walking School Bus" program continues to grow.

Maplewood K-5 School in SW Portland has established an impressive “Walking School Bus” program.  

With 4 (soon to be 5) different walking routes to school every Thursday, an average of 35 students are arriving to school by foot on those days, and on celebration days participation tops 100 students.  

Despite being located in hilly SW Portland with very few sidewalks to school, Maplewood families have successfully developed an active commute culture, experiencing increased safety and visibility in numbers. Congratulations, Maplewood! 

Click here to view the above slides as a PDF.


TriMet's rail trips increase, bus trips drop

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TriMet recently instituted a handy performance dashboard for the public to quickly assess how the state's largest transit agency is doing.

According to TriMet's January performance report, bus trips dropped 4.4% over the previous year. MAX trips increased by 4.7%. WES - the nation's only suburb to suburb heavy rail line, saw ridership increased by 12.2% to 1380 daily boardings. 

According to TriMet, the decline in bus ridership is due in part to the continuing weak economy, the 7.3% reduction in service levels, and the sunseting of fareless square.