Contrasts in active transport behaviour across four countries: how do they translate into public health benefits?

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Götschi, Thomas 
Maizlish, Neil 
Schwanen, Tim 
Goodman, Anna 

OBJECTIVE: Countries and regions vary substantially in transport related physical activity that people gain from walking and cycling and in how this varies by age and gender. This study aims to quantify the population health impacts of differences between four settings. METHOD: The Integrated Transport and Health Model (ITHIM) was used to estimate health impacts from changes to physical activity that would arise if adults in urban areas in England and Wales adopted travel patterns of Switzerland, the Netherlands, and California. The model was parameterised with data from travel surveys from each setting and estimated using Monte Carlo simulation. Two types of scenarios were created, one in which the total travel time budget was assumed to be fixed and one where total travel times varied. RESULTS: Substantial population health benefits would accrue if people in England and Wales gained as much transport related physical activity as people in Switzerland or the Netherlands, whilst smaller but still considerable harms would occur if active travel fell to the level seen in California. The benefits from achieving the travel patterns of the high cycling Netherlands or high walking Switzerland were similar. CONCLUSION: Differences between high income countries in how people travel have important implications for population health.

Active travel, Bicycling, Health impact assessment, Physical activity, Walking, Adolescent, Adult, Age Distribution, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Automobiles, Bicycling, California, Cross-Cultural Comparison, England, Female, Health Impact Assessment, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motor Activity, Netherlands, Surveys and Questionnaires, Switzerland, Transportation, Urban Health, Wales, Walking, Young Adult
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Prev Med
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Elsevier BV
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/G007462/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/K021796/1)
Medical Research Council (MR/K023187/1)
Wellcome Trust (087636/Z/08/Z)
The work was undertaken under the auspices of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence which is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust (RG69032). James Woodcock is funded by an MRC Population Health Scientist fellowship (RG68972). Anna Goodman's contribution to this research was funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (PDF-2010-03-130). The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health or those of other study funders.