"Does Policy Change Really Matter? A Natural Experiment to Assess the Health Impacts of Roadway Design Change"
Research has shown a correlation between the design and performance of a street network, and how much walking, bicycling, and transit use occurs on those streets. In 2015, the US Surgeon General published the Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities to address the high rates of chronic disease in the U.S. This comprehensive review recognizes many environmental and safety barriers to routine walking, and specifically called for the adoption of Complete Streets (CS) policies to support more walkable environments. Complete Streets (CS) are streets which enable safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists of all ages and abilities in all roadway construction and maintenance. Over 1100 states, regional planning organizations, cities, and towns have now adopted CS policies yet, despite the diffusion of these policies across the U.S., little empirical evidence exists of their impact on the community and health. Springfield, MA, a diverse city with large health inequities, adopted a city-wide CS policy in 2015. Historically there has been little infrastructure in Springfield to support active transportation with numerous street and roadway challenges to walking and biking. The City’s CS policy aims to reduce known barriers to walking/biking (e.g. creating bike lanes, installing public transportation facilities and traffic calming measures), and creates an ideal natural experiment to test whether CS policies lead to tangible outcomes (e.g. infrastructure changes; improvement in individual and community-level outcomes). This talk will feature the rationale and design of a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods participatory study designed to leverage collective expertise and existing/ongoing data collection efforts; engage residents as research partners; and, ensure results and research products are designed and disseminated to benefit the community and foster health equity.
Mark Fenton is a public health, planning, and transportation consultant, adjunct associate professor at Tufts University, advocate for active transportation, and former host of “America’s Walking” on PBS television. He’s consulted with the Centers for Disease Control, University of North Carolina’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, and YMCA of the USA on healthy community design principles, and has worked with communities across the United States. He studied engineering and biomechanics at the Massachusetts Institute Technology and US Olympic Training Center, was manager of the Human Performance Laboratory at Reebok, and has published articles related to exercise science, physical activity promotion, community interventions, and public policy.
Dr. Hennessy is a public health nutrition expert and a Research Assistant Professor at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She holds a doctoral degree in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition and a master of Nutrition Communication degree from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, a master of Public Health degree from Tufts University School of Medicine. Prior to joining the Friedman faculty in 2016, she was Senior Behavioral Scientist at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NCI, NIH). Dr. Hennessy was a former recipient of NCI’s Cancer Prevention Fellowship Award and received several NIH merit awards for her research and leadership. Her passion is working with at-risk communities to promote health through better nutrition and physical activity and training the next generation of leaders and engaged citizens.