By ROBYN L. MINOR The Daily News
Planners are broadening their look at how transportation projects can affect public health, both positively and negatively.
"Does this highway project make my butt look bigger?" is a question some road planners are beginning to ask, said Jeff Moore, chief of the Division of Planning for the Department of Highways.
Moore on Tuesday addressed the Barren River Community Health Planning Council, of which he also is a member, about the issue of health and transportation. The group laughed at the question, but Moore said it is legitimate to consider whether roads are making people stay in their cars longer.
Dennis Chaney, director of the Barren River District Health Department, said people might not always think about how transportation influences their daily lives, including their health.
"That's the purpose of these informational sessions that we have," Chaney said. "So as a group we can begin to think about what are the things we can do to effect change."
One of those things, Moore said, is to bring more people to the table during the planning of transportation projects and provide input in an informal way about how the projects could influence health.
Environmental impact studies are required for most projects that take into consideration negative aspects, such as noise and air pollution, he said. But some projects also have the opportunity to positively affect health.
"Cemetery Road is a good example of that," Moore said. "That project has a shared-use path on it."
The path was built when the community rallied and lobbied the state for landscaping and paths to buffer the widened road from nearby homes.
The path was the catalyst for a Greenways belt that now encircles Bowling Green, allowing people to reach Barren River, Lovers Lane Soccer Complex, Western Kentucky University's South Campus and nearby housing on mostly shared-use paths, sidewalks or clearly marked shared space on the road.
Moore said that on a national level, there is some discussion about the need for separate Health Impact Studies on some transportation projects, but that is currently not a requirement. The informal inclusion of comments about how projects influence health might be a more feasible approach that creates less duplication of studies already being done for projects, he said.
The council, in other matters, extended the deadline for completing a community health survey until March 1. The questionnaire asks about perceptions of five key health issues, including obesity, drug abuse and addiction, heart disease, lung cancer and diabetes, and seeks to identify gaps in providing services for those issues.
As of Tuesday, 9,566 surveys had been completed, well short of the goal of receiving responses from 10 percent of the region, or about 28,000.
One county, however, exceeded that 10 percent goal. Edmonson County residents filled out 1,303 surveys. Because the goal was reached, Edmonson County will receive $1,000 to spend on health-related issues. The money was donated by John Bonaguro, dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Western Kentucky University.
Chaney said information from the surveys and key informant interviews that will be conducted over the next few weeks will be analyzed by University of Kentucky professors, who in April will make a presentation to the council. Based on that presentation, the group will come up with an action plan to help improve the overall health of the area.
- To fill out the survey, go to barrenriverhealth.org and click on "We want to hear from you."
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2012 09:57