In December, the Department of Health and Human Services released “Healthy People 2020” — a 10-year blueprint aimed at improving the health of the nation. The plan comes amidst rising rates of many diseases – such as asthma and diabetes — and skyrocketing health care costs.
Now at the dawn of 2011, federal, state and local officials are faced with the tough job of turning the public health goals outlined by that plan into reality.
However, they will almost certainly fail at that increasingly urgent task unless they start factoring health into proposals being considered in non-health sectors like energy, housing, agriculture and transportation.
What does a decision to build a new highway have to do with health?
Plenty, as it turns out.
Depending on how it is planned, a new highway may change levels of air pollutants and the risk of asthma for people living nearby. New traffic patterns may also increase the risk of traffic-related injuries. Furthermore, the roadway might unintentionally cut off an important walking route to and from a transit stop or local school, making it harder for adults and children to get enough exercise.