Fighting chronic disease and traffic jams

News /

Share this

Ongoing debate about traffic congestion in Hobart's CBD provides a timely reminder that our reliance on cars has come at the expense of investment in infrastructure to promote more active modes of transport.

The continuing debate about Hobart’s worsening peak-hour traffic begs an important question for policy-makers and planners alike: How could the solution to peak-hour traffic align with the recently introduced health and wellbeing amendment in Tasmania’s planning laws?

Last year, the Heart Foundation successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a health and wellbeing clause in the schedule of objectives of the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993.

The built environment can be an influential determinant of the rate of death and suffering from chronic disease, including heart, stroke and blood vessel disease, along with a range of other chronic diseases prevalent in the community.

As has been pointed out, ongoing traffic congestion has a negative impact on productivity and the economy. So too is there a significant economic and social harm caused by Tasmania’s disproportionately high rates of smoking, obesity and the raft of associated health issues that go with it. Cardiovascular disease alone costs the state $322 million per year. It is also responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths.

Our cities and towns have long accepted and promoted a reliance on the car that has contributed to the poor health of our population. If the State Government is to achieve their goal of making Tasmania’s population the healthiest in the nation by 2025, a concerted effort needs to be made to promote more active modes of transport.

Currently, Tasmania’s high rates of chronic disease create adverse productivity and workforce participation outcomes as well as increasing absenteeism and placing additional strain on our health system.

Additional investment will need to be made in public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. A holistic approach will need to be employed across all Government departments to make health and wellbeing a central concern when planning and developing our built environment.

For more than ten years the Heart Foundation has been advocating for better preventative processes and changes to the physical form of the built environment. It involves relatively simple messages; active living, where physical exercise is part of our daily routine, active transport, where physical activity is included in our transport choices, denser cities and a greater mix of land uses. The health and wellbeing amendment in our state planning laws is a step in the right direction. Now we need to see the law implemented. No matter which decision the Government settles on as a solution to Hobart’s traffic woes, they will have to comply with the new planning law that takes health and wellbeing into account. And they will have to take a big-picture approach if they are to oversee the development of a livable city with a healthy population.

Graeme Lynch is the CEO of Heart Foundation Tasmania