Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Study shows walkable neighbourhoods can have up to 75% reduction in direct health costs

One of the things that people are innately attracted to are walkable communities. When you think of places where you’d bring a friend from out of town, you are more likely to show them Downtown Langley, Fort Langley, or Steveston than the Langley Bypass.

There has been extensive research on the benefits of walkable communities on people’s physical and mental health. These benefits translate into better health outcomes which helps lower the cost of providing health care services. How much are those savings?

The Health & Community Design Lab out of the UBC School of Population and Public Health has been researching this for many years. They presented their most recent findings at the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee.

The following map shows the different classifications of neighbourhoods: car dependent, somewhat car dependent, somewhat walkable, moderately walkable, and walkable.

Five different types of neighbourhoods based on walkability in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

Obesity is linked to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for people in BC. People who living in walkable communities tend to get more physical activity naturally which lowers the rate of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

The Health & Community Design Lab has been able to quantify the direct health costs for people who live in different types of communities by “linking the My Health, My community data with the Economic Burden of Illness in Canada and the Canadian Community Surveillance System estimates.”

Direct health costs for diabetes based on neighbourhood type.

Direct health costs for hypertension based on neighbourhood type.

Direct health costs for heart disease based on neighbourhood type.

As shown, there is significantly lower direct health costs for people who live in walkable neighbourhoods compared to car dependent neighbourhoods. The cost difference ranges from around 40% to 75%.

Given that health care spending is the most significant budget item provincially, it would make sense for the provincial government to support communities by increasing funding to build sidewalks and bike lanes, and also by providing toolkits to support communities in changing their default design which is based around accommodating cars to around people and walking (including people with limited or no mobility.)

One of the goals in Langley City’s strategic plan is to “enhance the multi-modal transportation network within the community.” This means enhancing walking and cycling infrastructure. You have seen this is action with the upgraded 203rd Street and 53rd Avenue. We have more work to do in our community; the north side Langley City is moderately walkable while the south side is somewhat car dependent.

Building a walkable Langley City not only helps reduce congestion, but it also supports making our community healthier. This also happens to be good for our collective wallet as it leads to a reduction in health care costs.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I’m very curious why the data show that somewhat car dependent neighborhoods have higher health care costs than neighborhoods that are entirely car dependent