The National Academies

NCHRP 20-112 [Active]

A Research Roadmap for Transportation and Public Health

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Staff Responsibility: Marci A. Greenberger
Research Agency: UNC Highway Safety Research Center
Principal Investigator: Laura Sandt
Effective Date: 9/26/2017
Completion Date: 3/25/2019

Transportation is an essential component of a functioning society. Transportation provides access to jobs, education, health care, recreation and essential goods and services—all of which are aspects of the social determinants of health. Distribution of transportation goods and services across populations substantially contributes to the length and quality of life. The missions of state departments of transportation (state DOTs) typically include safety, efficiency, mobility, accessibility, and quality of life—and each of these have implications for public health. The missions of state health agencies include protecting, promoting and improving the health of people—these outcomes are affected by transportation systems and policies. A growing number of state and local transportation and public health agencies are collaborating to improve public health and transportation system performance; this collaboration can contribute to an improved economy and quality of life.  The relationship between transportation and public health is complex, and manifests itself in a variety of ways and at various levels of decisionmaking. The transportation sector has conducted robust research to understand the impacts of transportation on air quality, safety, and noise. However, there are gaps in the understanding of transportation’s relationship to other areas of public health. Some of the under-researched areas include how transportation affects the social determinants of health, the health of underserved populations, equitable access to transportation services, and how performance measurement in both sectors can support better health outcomes. Addressing these gaps may require research in areas such as active transportation, multimodal connectivity, economic development, the built environment, land use, and how decisions made in each of these areas can improve public health outcomes. Research is needed to provide transportation agencies with the information and tools necessary for integrating public health considerations into transportation agency decisionmaking and performance measurement at the policy, program, project, and operations levels. Given the relative newness of this topic for transportation agencies, and the evolving understanding of the importance of the relationship between transportation and public health, state DOTs are interested in identifying a “research roadmap” to guide systematic inquiry in this arena.  For purposes of this research, a research roadmap is defined as a type of strategic research plan that outlines the key opportunities and challenges associated with transportation and public health, identifies why they are important to transportation agencies, identifies gaps in knowledge and practice, and outlines and prioritizes specific research projects needed to address these gaps. 
The objectives of this research is to develop a 10-year prioritized program of research—a research roadmap—that will provide a broad overview of highly relevant research needs at the intersection of transportation and public health in the United States. The roadmap will also identify research that will provide evidence to support practical and useful information, and implementable tools, for state DOTs and their transportation partners to use to integrate public health considerations at all levels of their agencies’ decisionmaking. Accomplishment of these objectives will require input from both the transportation and public health sectors. The roadmap should:
  • Clearly describe a broad set of research topics and initiatives based on identified gaps in knowledge and practice that will advance the knowledge and capabilities of transportation decisionmakers, and include a discussion of the relevancy of the proposed research agenda to state DOTs, regional planning organizations, and public health agencies.
  • Include a focus on under-researched areas.
  • Consider the level and timing at which transportation agencies make decisions or take actions that contribute to improved health outcomes, and their related implementation barriers and opportunities.
  • Develop a minimum of 10 topics problem statements with a scope and budget appropriate for NCHRP, pending approval of the topics by NCHRP. Information on the NCHRP can be found at: http://www.trb.org/NCHRP/NCHRP.aspx.
  • May identify additional research needs that may be more suitable for other public, private, or academic research institutions or programs.
  • Include a communication plan to disseminate the roadmap. Implementation of the communication plan is not part of this project.
Each research problem statement will include the following information:
  1. A description of the problem or need—one or more paragraphs explaining the reason for the research, how the intended research product will be used and by whom.
  2. A summary of a literature review.
  3. The research objective—a succinct statement of the desired research outcomes and expected final product(s). 
  4. A description of proposed tasks and/or the anticipated scope and breadth of the research in sufficient detail to justify the estimated funding needed.
  5. An estimate of the funding needed. 
  6. The estimated length of time needed to complete the research. 
  7. The urgency and potential benefits for state DOTs from conducting the research, including a discussion of the potential negative consequences of not funding the research. 
  8. Implementation plans that identify the target audience for the research, key decisionmakers that can approve, influence, or champion implementation of results, and institutional or political barriers to implementation.
STATUS:  Research is underway.

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