Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Transit investments lead to healthier people

with 6 comments

A Media Release from UBC with a link to the whole research paper – actually hosted by Translink – and dated August 20 last year

No surprises here – but useful back up to the argument that we ought to spend more on transit. Not that I expect that to influence people like Jon Ferry, [The Province, paywalled]  who is pretending to be open minded!


A new report from the University of British Columbia shows that transportation and health are closely linked and recommends that health outcome be considered in transportation planning.

The report, funded by TransLink and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority as part of updates to Transport 2040, the regional transportation strategy, presents a range of opportunities for Translink to incorporate health into its planning.

“This report documents how prioritizing transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure will positively impact health,” says the study’s lead author Lawrence Frank, Professor and Director of the Health and Community Design Lab, part of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. “It looks at encouraging active transportation, such as walking, cycling and transit, and reducing air pollution and traffic collision risk.”

Dr. Lawrence Frank. Photo: Amanda Skuse

Dr. Lawrence Frank. Photo: Amanda Skuse

Previous research by Frank has shown that every hour a person spends in a car each day makes them six per cent more likely to be obese, while each additional kilometre a person walks makes them five per cent less likely to be obese.

Sedentary lifestyle is a major cause of many chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and some cancers. Many chronic diseases are preventable and active transportation and other sustainable transportation choices offer the possibility of prevention and even treatment through increased physical activity. The costs of these diseases are projected to increse by more than $1.5 billion in B.C. over the next 2 to 3 years.

“TransLink’s consideration of the health impacts of transportation systems could help offset the rising costs of health care in the Vancouver area and promote an active lifestyle that will benefit all Canadians,” Frank adds.

The full report is available at here.

Canada Line

Written by Stephen Rees

July 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

Posted in cycling, health, transit, walking

Tagged with

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Well the choice here is very clear…Drive a car and die of a heart attack or walk/bike/use transit and live 5 years longer while suffering from arthritis and/or dementia….Now which one is better? Which one costs society less? One could argue heart attack is a bit cleaner…Than again some of us like to cling on (in many ways)

    Jackson Mackson

    July 7, 2013 at 11:06 pm

  2. I think it is very significant that the Health Authorities were represented at the Stakeholder Forum. This is a departure from their earlier practices: when I was a planer at Translink, I could never get their attention. At long last it looks like they are paying attention to prevention rather than treatment. There is nothing inevitable except that we will all die – and the longer we live the greater the impact of degenerative diseases if we continue to live a sedentary existence consuming too many calories most of which some from fat and sugar. The quality of life for older people is considerably improved by physical activity. Arthritis does not stop me from cycling and early onset dementia is mostly a matter of genetics.

    What is clear is that we can make better choices. If we continue in the way we have been going, we will not change outcomes, and it is clear that most of us understand the need for change.

    Stephen Rees

    July 8, 2013 at 7:52 am

  3. @Jackson, it depends also on the type of disease and the state of Medicare “real estate.”. Obesity related illnesses often result in longer and more frequent stays in hospitals which can cost hundreds of dollars an hour, and often lead to years of heavily subsidized Pharmacare. Moving patients into long term care is backlogged in every province including wealthy Alberta, thus more chronically ill people are occupying valuable hospital beds.

    I’m thinking of my elders here. One spent four months in hospital before losing her independence, and several weeks of that time were spent waiting for the first available bed in a care facility where she has resided for 10 years. She was quite sedentary for decades prior to her misfortune.

    Another elder spent three weeks in hospital before he passed at 89 years young. He was active all his life and only had one prior and very short stay in hospital after a minor accident.

    Car accidents alone cost billions every year and it seems everyone knows someone who unwillingly now leads a life frought with dibilitating illness and longlasting disability. Should the world supply of oil run out overnight, there is no doubt our public medicare system will wake up to dramatically lower demands because there will be fewer accidents and more healthy people.

    We know that won’t happen so quickly, but it illustrates how underrated ordinary things like decent transit service and walking really are in our society. When was the last time you saw an ad for a sexy city bus to compete with the zoom zoom zoom and trucks-with-hemis-overcompensation-for-insecure-manhood 30-second spots on prime time?


    July 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm

  4. After I read the post I started looking at my fellow travellers on the SkyTrain and buses.
    There is quite a number of them that are both borderline obese and young (under 30-35) and a few that are morbidly obese. This is especially true of passengers that take buses and the SkyTrain in Coquitlam.

    There is less obvious obesity amongst young people downtown, in Mt Pleasant, Richmond etc., but borderline obese/ obese people are not hard to find in those areas in the 40 plus population.

    I remember that when I came to Canada in the early 70s obesity was much less common..or else it was similar to Europe and Japan where being obese meant being 10-15 pounds over normal weight.

    Red frog

    July 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm

  5. Obesity these days is defined by Body Mass Index (BMI) according to WHO

    < 18.5 underweight
    18.5–24.9 normal weight
    25.0–29.9 overweight
    30.0–34.9 class I obesity
    35.0–39.9 class II obesity
    ≥ 40.0 class III obesity

    Please also take the time to watch

    Stephen Rees

    July 9, 2013 at 9:14 pm

  6. BMI isn’t an accurate measurement as it doesn’t differentiate between muscular mass and fat. Not to mention bones size. It shouldn’t be used with children just before and during early puberty as the body changes drastically at that time, nor it should be used with very old people.

    Surely it is fairly obvious–especially in the summer when people wear few clothes–but more especially in the doctor office, if one is in decent shape or a bit too fat etc. (anorexia is of course just as dangerous as morbid obesity and perhaps harder to control).

    Take 2 men with the same height and body weight and therefore the same BMI.
    One is pear shape, with relatively thin shoulders and chest, a sizable stomach, and waist, hips and buttocks of a generous size.
    The other person has an hour-glass figure, with broad shoulders, a muscular chest and arms, a flat stomach, a narrow waist, muscular buttocks, a hips size smaller than the chest size, may be like the size of the rib cage under the pectoral muscles.
    Technically, looking at their BMI, one might say that both are overweight or obese….

    I should know, as I was once a nerdy teenager with a pencil thin torso, skinny arms, a waist and hips too big for my height and age, and muscular legs as a rode a bike a lot. I was told that I would likely fail the army medical (at the time all fit males had to go to the army for a couple of years. Unpaid). I didn’t particularly wanted to go to the army but being rejected would have been humiliating and might also jeopardize getting a job.
    Mind you I was only 10 kg over the ideal weight for my height, it just that the proportions were all wrong.

    I went on a regimen of exercises with weights, 3 days a week, supervised by a trainer chosen and vetted by my dad, during the school year, with lots of jogging in the woods, swimming in lakes and the ocean, riding a bike up steep hills etc. during school holidays.
    My body changed drastically BUT my body weight didn’t change that much. It just that the size of various body parts were reversed in a more pleasing way.

    I went through 2 army medicals. One at 18 1/2, when they told you that you were either “fit to serve” or “rejected”. That exam was embarrassing as, after the army doctors had checked you all over, inside and out, one had to stand, stark naked, in front of the town mayor, councilors, local doctors and notaries, while the head doctor would make comments about one’s body, touching whatever body part he thought was up to standards or not with a long wooden stick.

    The other exam was after one finished all possible studies (from high school to university), a few months before one actually went to the army. During that last exam we also did all sorts of written tests.
    In both physicals they measured the size of the shoulders, chest (and rib cage if it was smaller than the chest), waist, hips, height and weight.
    They used a complicated formula to tie all these figures together, but have no idea what it was.

    Red frog

    July 13, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: