Links between public health and transport strengthened in the North East

For this first time in the North East, transport bodies are working directly with public health professionals to create impactful transport strategies with the health and wellbeing of local people at the forefront, thanks to a one-year placement organised by the Public Health Specialty Training Programme and Transport North East (TNE), the organisation that delivers game-changing transport schemes and initiatives on behalf of the North East Joint Transport Committee.

Public health trainee, Luke Robertshaw, will work alongside the TNE team to develop transport interventions that address the health and wellbeing needs of local people, a move that will bring us closer to achieving the Transport Plan’s vision of ‘moving to a green, health, dynamic and thriving North East. Luke, who joins the team with 7 years’ experience in the public health sector, will embed public health messaging into upcoming transport strategies and public consultations, such as the newly approved Making the Right Travel Choice Strategy and the forthcoming Active Travel Strategy which is due to be published next year.

The focus of the placement will be on bringing out the many benefits that walking, cycling, wheeling as well as using public transport can have on physical and mental health. Highlighting this through upcoming transport strategies will allow local people to clearly see the link between their health and how they travel and will provide the impetus for them to start thinking about how they can change their travel habits and in doing so significantly improve their lifestyle.

There are major health and income-based inequalities in the North East and we know that the health and wellbeing of local people is impacted by how they travel and the travel opportunities that area available to them. With 1 in 4 people in the North East classed as physically inactive and air pollution causing an estimated 360 deaths each year in central Tyneside alone, robust action is needed. 

Through the partnership with public health, TNE will look to address these inequalities and change the trajectory through targeted transport strategy delivery. This will help to achieve the 5 core objectives of the North East Transport Plan, with particular emphasis on creating a healthier North East.

Luke Robertshaw, NHS Public Health Specialty Trainee, said: “Through my work I’ve become interested in the wider issues that impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Transport and travel are issues that have a strong impact on public health in various ways including air quality, physical activity, connectedness, road safety and noise to name but a few.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how public health is applied in transport planning and policy during this placement year and I’m interested to see how strategies, policies and schemes are formed at Local Transport Authority level to help combat these issues and bring about benefits for local people.”

A key goal of the placement is to strengthen existing relationships between key players in the transport and health sectors to allow for stronger partnership working. Luke will be building links with local public health, NHS sustainability networks, universities, community organisations and charities paving the way for future collaboration and joined- up working towards shared regional objectives. 

Cllr Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “We’re always looking at how we can make our policies and strategies as robust as possible so that they stand the test of time and are reflective of a wide variety of socio-economic, health and environmental matters. Transport connects people to employment, education, social, leisure, and health opportunities. It can reduce social isolation, improve mental wellbeing and enable access to health and social care services, which is why we’re excited to work with Luke over the course of this year to ensure that public health is at the forefront of upcoming transport schemes and interventions.”

Cllr Kilgour, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council said: “The importance of keeping local people in good health cannot be underestimated. How we travel to get to work, education and for leisure and social opportunities has a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of local people and it is our responsibility to ensure that people have clean, green, safe, affordable and reliable transport options available to them, which is why building public health into the planning of transport strategies is so important.”

At the end of the placement year, Luke will continue to work towards qualification as a Consultant in Public Health, having helped to forge new relationships between the transport, health, educational and third sector, as well as helping to strengthen the transport network in the North so that more people are inclined to travel sustainably to improve their health, wellbeing and environment. 

Find out more about the work TNE are doing to improve public health with transport at www.transportnortheast.gov.uk

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