The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is primarily about the provision of health insurance to people, but it does include a number of important provisions in the lifestyle, wellness, and prevention space that offers the most cost-effective route to improved health.
Elana Schor reviews the transportation-relevant provisions:
[A] new pool of federal “Community Transformation” grants would be established, with local governments and nonprofit groups eligible for a share of the funding. As Streetsblog Capitol Hill noted back in November, the grants would go towards projects that support public health, including “activities to prevent chronic diseases” and “the infrastructure to support active living.”
In practice, that could result in new funding available for bike-ped improvements or programs that encourage safe transportation for young students, such as Safe Routes to School.
The Senate bill also recognizes transportation’s role in public health by giving the U.S. DOT a seat on a new National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council that would coordinate federal wellness policy.
Hopefully this will be an important step down the road of reconfiguring how the federal government thinks about transportation. Transportation is, of course, about moving people from point A to point B. But it’s also about what kinds of points exist. Communities that are thinking of investing in rail transportation, for example, should be strongly encouraged to zone for high-density walkable communities in the vicinity of stations rather than surface parking lots. The benefits of doing so are in part economic, but also in part relate to public health.