Lack of Transportation Impacts Health Outcomes: And 13 Million US Adults Are Lacking

A CDC study conducted in 2022 has been making the news rounds recently regarding how lack of transportation, public or otherwise is having severe impacts on the health outcomes of millions of Americans.

5.7% of the US population currently to not have access to reliable transport. Which of course can have the obvious negative health consequences of missed appointments and inability to receive treatment, but it also has an impact on isolation and health, particularly amongst the elderly.

You can read the CDC document here.

Gender Impact on Transportation

Studies have revealed notable gender disparities when it comes to lacking reliable transportation. The CDC's National Health Interview Survey found that 6.1% of women experienced transportation challenges, compared to 5.3% of men.

Rural Communities Are Also More Impacted

Geographical location also plays a significant role in transportation challenges. Adults living in the West North Central region of the U.S., which includes states like North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, reported a higher likelihood of lacking reliable transportation, with 7.5% facing this issue.

As Are Those On Lower Income

Although this is hardly a surprise as they’re less likely to have personal transportation with 16% of those at the national poverty level having issues getting to and from appointments.

The Health Impacts of Lacking Transportation

One of the most significant consequences of lacking reliable transportation is limited access to healthcare services. The CDC data brief highlights that a lack of transportation leads to reduced access to healthcare, especially among older adults, uninsured individuals, and those with lower incomes..

This limited access can result in delayed diagnoses, suboptimal management of chronic conditions, and overall poorer health outcomes.

Impact on Mental Health and Cognitive Decline

In addition to the physical health implications, a lack of reliable transportation can also have a substantial impact on mental health. The inability to access necessary mental health services is obvious, but the isolation it can cause, particularly among the elderly can lead to mental decline. With socializing having been shown to help stave off neurodegenerative isues.

Reduced Access to Healthy Food

Lack of reliable transportation can also impact individuals' access to healthy food options. Which of course can impact health over the long term as people rely more on convenience stores or fast food establishments.

This lack of access to nutritious food can contribute to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions.

What Should Local Government Be Doing To Tackle The Issue

Whilst limited budgets do put some constraints on assisting health outcomes when it comes to transportation issues, particularly in rural areas there are a couple of solutions.

Expanding Public Transportation

Investing in and expanding public transportation infrastructure can help improve transportation challenges for many individuals. Improving the availability, frequency, and affordability of public transportation options can provide a reliable alternative for those who cannot afford or have limited access to private vehicles. Additionally, ensuring that public transportation routes are accessible to underserved communities can help bridge the transportation gap and promote equitable access to essential services. Although this can of course be an issue with budget constraints, many people on both sides of the political isle can usually agree that basic essentials like public transport, education and sanitation are the remit of even frugal government.

Supporting Active Transportation

Promoting active transportation (that is walking and cycling) can provide multiple benefits for both physical and mental health. Creating pedestrian-friendly environments, building sidewalks, and establishing bike lanes can encourage individuals to engage in physical activity while also addressing transportation needs. However, it is important to note that walking and cycling routes should not hamper the flow of traffic and be an addition. There have been many cases globally where traffic lanes have been removed causing severe congestion issues further worsening transport links for many areas.

Implementing Rideshare and Transportation Assistance Programs

Rideshare services and transportation assistance programs can offer viable solutions for individuals facing transportation challenges. This is perhaps one of the newest options thanks to modern technology.

Collaborations between healthcare systems, community organizations, and transportation providers can help establish subsidized transportation options for medical appointments, ensuring that individuals can access necessary healthcare services.

Lastly, volunteer driver programs or community based initiatives can provide transportation support for vulnerable populations, such as older adults or individuals with disabilities. This can be particularly effective when working with religious groups.

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