Today is Health Day of Better Transport Week – a series of events organised by the Campaign for Better Transport to celebrate the positive difference that sustainable transport can bring.
Most of the attention on Health Day will focus on the impact that better transport can have through cutting congestion and air pollution – plus exploring the benefits of active travel choices like cycling and walking. These are vitally important issues, but they are not the only way that better transport has a positive impact on health.
ECT Charity is one of the UK’s leading providers of community transport, safely providing almost 360,000 passenger trips for our communities each year. Our experience - and our own research shows that transport has a direct role to play in the physical and mental health of its passengers – through helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation.
Loneliness and social isolation are the hidden epidemics of our time. Research has shown that loneliness can increase your overall risk of death by 26% – as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that well over a quarter (27%) of us feel lonely often, always or some of the time. Around 1 in 12 – or 4.2m people – say they are always or often lonely.
We know that transport – and particularly community transport – can do something about that. Up and down the country, community transport operators like ECT Charity are providing door-to-door transport services that help vulnerable and isolated people get out and about, connecting them with their communities. They are providing day trips and activities; rural community buses; transport for community groups – and a host of other services – all with the aim of tackling loneliness and isolation.
Community transport can also directly support healthcare, leading to better health outcomes. At ECT Charity we provide a service called PlusBus for Health – an Ealing-based service that helps patients travel between their homes and GP surgeries. The service aims to reduce the number of GP house calls and missed appointments, while improving the wellbeing of patients by offering them an opportunity to get out of the house and have chats along the way.
So, on Health Day of Better Transport Week, never forget that transport itself can be healthful – helping people to get out and about, taking down the barriers to access in our communities and bringing people together.