Doing anything without a vehicle or public transit access can be highly frustrating. A new study suggests that one in five persons admitted to missing critical medical care due to lack of transportation, putting their health at risk.
In the United States, the design of our transportation infrastructure, which prioritizes driving and parking, has various detrimental effects on public health, including greater social isolation, air pollution, and fatal accidents.
Another problem is brought to light by a recent study: those without cars or limited public transit access have a more challenging time getting to healthcare facilities. According to the survey, more than one in five American citizens who do not own a car and have restricted access to public transit choose not to receive healthcare because of these hurdles.
These transportation constraints disproportionately affect communities of color and those with lower means, and due to transportation issues, Black and Hispanic Americans are about twice as likely to skip required medical treatment, and adults with low incomes are more than three times as likely to do so.
The survey also revealed that while 91% of people reported having access to a personal vehicle, that percentage fell to 81 percent for Black individuals and 78 percent for adults with low incomes, suggesting that adults with access to a car were more likely to receive necessary care.
This barrier to receiving medical treatment worsens as more individuals struggle with mobility issues. Nearly 24 percent of Americans over 24 report feeling "transport insecurity," which is the experience of not being able to move from place to place in a safe or timely manner.
Unsurprisingly, groups disproportionately affected by transportation insecurity are also more prone to put off getting medical treatment due to obstacles with transportation. Compared to 19% of white people, 33% of Black adults, and 29% of Hispanic adults experience at least some transportation insecurity.
Furthermore, 18% of those who own cars are apprehensive about mobility, compared to 42% of non-owners.
The researchers hypothesize that the higher likelihood of low income and a lower likelihood of automobile ownership among urban people cause this unexpected outcome.
This shows that, despite transit agencies facing a fiscal cliff that might result in more service cuts, more than the public transport service offered in American cities is needed to serve people who depend on it. In the end, these two studies show that our auto-centric planning and spending negatively impact many Americans' health.
Overall, increasing access to adequate and inexpensive mobility alternatives, particularly public transit, is essential to improve public health outcomes, particularly in underserved areas.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. More than One in Five Adults with Limited Public Transit Access Forgo Health Care Because of Transportation Barriers
- Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Social Determinants of Health