Transportation is a social determinant of health that affects vulnerable community members in a myriad of ways. Living in modern times, we often take for granted how many aspects of our lives are touched by transportation. Adequate and reliable transportation is essential to maintaining a thriving, healthy community.
Public Transportation should not only be seen as a way to get from point A to point B, but also as a vehicle for wellness. Poor transportation systems often cut off access to many healthy food sources- especially for those without access to a car or affordable public transport.
Oftentimes, community members will have to take several buses in the heat of summer to get to the closest grocery store, not only does this make transporting perishable foods difficult, but it may also be unaffordable for many low income families.
There is a constant time, cost, and safety trade off for some people to access even the most basic services. In urban areas ride-sharing may be an alternative to using public transportation. However, ride sharing (especially in 2020) may not always be available, and residents without bank accounts or credit cards cannot access mobile ride-sharing apps even when available.
Average residents as both urban and rural communities can spend up to 30 percent of their monthly income on transportation alone- and that doesn’t even account for the time spent traveling, limiting hours in which they can access service. Public transportation’s limited routes often mean hours in traffic for residents of sprawling cities. When grocery stores and healthy foods are far from home, often residents must settle for cheaper and more accessible fast food, pizza delivery, etc.
Transportation issues can affect a person’s access to health care services. These issues may result in delayed health care appointments, increased health spending and overall poorer health management. Oftentimes patients will wait until they have a health emergency before going to see a doctor simply due to transportation difficulty; each year, over 3.6 million people in the United States do not obtain medical care due to transportation issues. Even in areas where hospitals and healthcare providers work with transport services, community surveys have shown that there are many hoops to jump through related to the application process, these small and detailed burdens on patients often end up creating significant barriers for patients with health-literacy issues.
For more information on social determinants of health and what solutions are possible for addressing these barriers, please visit the website here.