Public Transportation Improvements Could Mean Overall Health Improvement

This past Saturday as I looked for the least expensive gasoline, my daughter questioned why I was looking to saving a few cents on gas. Her question was “does a few pennies matter?”, as she handed me handful of pennies. The cost of energy is a concern to many. With the relatively mild winter, families may have saved on heating their homes, but paid that savings at the gas pump.

As a consumer and one who averages 28 miles to and from work, at what price point will I park my car and use public transportation? In Kansas City, reliable public transportation remains a barrier. Getting to and from work is a challenge and would require a minimum of two transfers; it’s doable, but may not be reasonable.

The “power” of mobility becomes critical to all. As our communities age, we will see a huge challenge arise for seniors. Are suburban sectors ready for the change? In rural communities the barrier is even more significant as quality grocery stores vanish and the local dentist retires.

The Community Transportation Association notes that there has been an increase in demand for dialysis centers in Kansas. In 2006 dialysis patients could receive treatment in their home county in only 27 of 105 counties. Gaining access to dialysis treatment is a huge challenge for those living in the remaining counties that do not have a treatment facility. For patients living in northwest Kansas, the only option for dialysis treatment is in Hays—as far as 180 miles away.

Yet, I have the options that other don’t have. For some public transportation is the only means available to them. I can’t imagine scheduling medical appointments, stopping at a child care facility and then having to make a grocery store run, all while using public transportation. The convenience of a vehicle is something I just take for granted.

Lack of access to reliable transportation is one of the most pervasive barriers to health care for families in the United States. The result is missed opportunities for families. During inclement weather, immunizations and a routine well-child visits to the doctor may be missed, incidences of untreated chronic illnesses may increase. How many of us would forgo an appointment if it meant 60 minutes of commuting time and two bus transfers in inclement weather? My ophthalmologist is in the other side of town; I make the journey every six months, without hesitation. Again, I just take my vehicle for granted.

During my weekend trip with my daughter, our gas conversation shifted to light rail and Kansas City’s history. We happened to be near the intersection of Strong Ave and 35th street in Kansas City, Kan. I pointed out to her the hidden rail track that protruded from the asphalt, partially buried waiting to be used again. We once appreciated light rail, understood its greater good and realized the mobility that it created for communities. A challenge for all of us as we continue to rely on fossil fuels. Gas prices will rise and they may fall, and my addiction to my car will continue, until an adequate alternative is made available.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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