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Shifting car travel to active modes to improve population health and achieve transport goals: A simulation study

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Introduction: Being physically active has multiple health benefits and contributes to the reduction of co-morbidities and mortality from chronic diseases. Active transport (walking and cycling) contributes to population health by enabling physical activity. We developed a simulation model to measure health impacts of transport scenarios for Melbourne, Australia. Our aim was to demonstrate active transport health impacts and support the materialization of policies for healthy cities and people. The model measures health impacts of increased physical activity from replacing short car trips for any purpose or for commuting under 5 km by walking and cycling. Methods: We developed a micro-simulation model of physical activity and disease risk in combination with the well-established proportional multi-state life table model. We quantified life course health including health adjusted-life years, life years, new cases of diseases prevented, and deaths prevented for 14 chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity for the adult population of people from Melbourne, Australia in 2017. Results: Over the life course of the Melbourne adult population of 3.6 million people in 2017, gains in health-adjusted life years ranged from 5,100 (95% Uncertainty Interval (UI) 3,700 to 6,500) for the scenario replacing commute trips by car under 1 km with walking up to 738,800 (95% UI 546,000 to 935,000) when replacing car trips under 2 km with walking and between 2 km and 5 km with cycling. We also estimated benefits in terms of reductions of new cases of diseases and deaths prevented, with the greatest gains for ischemic heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's and other dementias and type 2 diabetes. Conclusions: We found that shifting car travel to active modes would accrue important health benefits for the 2017 Melbourne population. Our results support policies and strategies for sustainable transport planning to contribute to reduce the burden from chronic diseases and environmental impact of car-oriented cities.



Active transport, Health impact assessment, Physical activity, Chronic diseases, Simulation, Knowledge translation

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Journal of Transport and Health

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Elsevier BV
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) ERC (817754)