Friday, June 8, 2018

Transportation Wellness Task Force

When we made the case for an active transportation policy to the UC Regents Health Services Committee, there was no opportunity for a dialogue. That is why we are very grateful that UCLA Health offered us the opportunity for such a dialogue. UCLA Health already has a No Smoking Policy, it serves antibiotic free meat, and it has recently been named LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader. Perhaps our medical provider should also consider its role in the (healthy or not) transport choices its staff and patients are making every day? What would President Johnese Spisso, Richard Azar (General Services), and Joe Earnest (Media Relations) think?

We very much looked forward to this meeting. The lack of conversation over many years leads to a great deal of urgency: The more you have the conversation only in your own head, the more you are disappointed about the lack of results.

"These are all good ideas." "You will not find many doctors who would oppose such initiatives." But is there a constituency that could move things ahead? "Perhaps we could look into a certification as a bicycle friendly employer." "The staircases are really difficult because of building standards and fire regulations." "The leases which govern parking cash out and bike parking improvements come from UCOP, the Office of the President." "Perhaps we could do some bike commuter courses for staff, or something in the Vital Signs magazine." I like the idea of a UCLA Health branded bike rack said the President, perhaps we can do it like a wrap, and we shook hands on that (Full list here). In the end, it is about an institutional attitude, and that needs time. But health impacts and climate impacts don't wait for us to make up our minds. Urgency? And how!

Thirty minutes with the leadership of a national "Best in the West" health care institution is one big deal. We recognize this and we appreciate it. On the other hand, the institution has no plan how to increase cycling among staff and clients, it has no plan how to improve bicycle facilities at all its locations, it does not assess the health effects of all this driving. UCLA Health has a community relations department, but it does not get involved in local planning discussions, does not remind Caltrans and METRO that the I-405 widening has discouraged more people to ride a bike to UCLA Health destinations. It is mum about a the slow death of a Great Streets Initiative for Westwood Blvd that would have included a much needed bikelane to our Medical Plaza, torpedoed by homeowners in Holby Hills and LA city council-member Paul Koretz. But a health system that prides itself on its local connection - "See you in the Neighborhood" - can ill afford to remain quiet when neighborhoods fail to safely accommodate the modes of transport doctors recommend most often.

Supporting healthy and sustainable modes is not about privileges for a few determined and reckless bike riders: It is about inviting the entire community to consider that car-centric policies and organizations have made us unwell. And that a health provider must not unwittingly lend support to the false notion that everybody drives in LA. A first class health system at a world class university should really be a leader on the bike-path towards healthy communities. It would be good to establish a formal forum in which active transportation advocates and public health experts can help the UCLA Health to address the unhealthy car bias of the organization. We would call it the Transportation Wellness Task Force.

Transportation Wellness Task Force.
(Draft Remit) 
The purpose of the task force is enhance transportation wellness for staff, patients and the communities where UCLA Health operates. It provides a comprehensive perspective on the health implications of transport choices - for the individual, the enterprise and for the community.

The purpose of the task force is
  • to integrate the public health research into the daily practice of a large medical institution
  • to provide recommendations to the leadership for programs and investments which improve transportation wellness for staff, patients and the community
  • to identify facilities improvements that would encourage more to use healthy modes
  • to identify areas where improved messaging can increase the visibility and attractiveness of healthy modes
  • to identify perverse incentives and address their impact on transport choices
  • to share its recommendations with related institutions in the UC Health system 
  • to pursue certification of these efforts and to educate the public 
  • to support the collection of trip data for staff and patients for scholarly analysis, including a quantitative study the health benefits delivered over a longer period, to engage campus expertise from urban planning and public health, and to contribute to a discussion of transportation wellness in the academic community
  • to make its insights available in the context of local and regional transport planning, and to provide community facilitation to increase availability of healthy options in the communities where UCLA Health operates 

The members of the task force represent the following areas of expertise:

  • Public health 
  • Population health, diabetes prevention 
  • UCLA Transportation Planning
  • UCLA Health - Marketing 
  • UCLA Health - Sustainability
  • UCLA Health - Community Relations 

Two members of the committee use a bicycle for their commute. The task force produces an annual report.

The following have supported the establishment of such a task force:

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