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New Publication Features Economic Benefits of Active Travel to School

A young boy rides a bicycle to school.The January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine includes a systematic review from The Community Guide that shows the economic benefits of active travel to school interventions exceed the cost. The issue also features a commentary from CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity about how economic evidence for active travel to school and other interventions can inform decision making, create community momentum, and increase physical activity.

Both articles are now available online through The Community Guide:

Jacob V, Chattopadhyay SK, Reynolds JA, Hopkins DP, Morgan JA, et al. Economics of interventions to increase active travel to school: a Community Guide systematic review pdf icon [PDF - 486 KB]. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2021;60(1):e27−40.

Petersen R, Pedroso M. Economic benefits of promoting safe walking and biking to school: creating momentum for community improvements pdf icon [PDF - 138 KB]. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2021;60(1):e41−3.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends active travel to school interventions based on evidence they increase walking among students and reduce risks for traffic-related injury. Active travel to school interventions make it easier for children and adolescents to commute to school actively (e.g., walking or biking). Interventions may include improvements to the physical or social safety of common routes to school or promotional efforts around safe pedestrian behaviors. In the United States, the most commonly used active travel to school intervention is Safe Routes to School External Web Site Icon – an evidence-based program highlighted by CDC’s High-Impact in 5 Years External Web Site Icon initiative.

Active travel to school interventions must include at least one of the following components: engineering, education, encouragement, and/or enforcement. Interventions may also include either evaluation and/or equity components. Communities typically select or modify intervention components to address specific barriers to active travel. Programs are often combined with other school- and community-based interventions to increase opportunities for physical activity. The systematic review of economic evidence included studies of U.S. Safe Routes to School programs that reported benefits of averted injuries resulting from street-level engineering improvements.

The CPSTF also recommends combined built environment approaches to increase physical activity. These interventions link one or more interventions to improve pedestrian or bicycle transportation systems with one or more land use and environmental design interventions.

Among children, physical activity reduces risk of depression and improves bone health and aerobic and muscular fitness (CDC, 2020 External Web Site Icon). In addition, when youth are regularly physically active, they increase their chances for a healthy adulthood and reduce their risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension (HHS, 2008 pdf icon [PDF - 8.35 MB] External Web Site Icon).

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