Health groups call on the government to improve health outcomes from the transport system

Thursday 05 October 2023

Nearly 20 Australian health organisations are united in calling for the federal transport minister Catherine King to mitigate the negative health impacts of Australia’s transport system.

“Australia's motor cities are making us sick, with polluted air, road trauma and rising rates of physical inactivity,” said air pollution researcher Clare Walter.

“Minister King has the opportunity to deliver a healthier transport system, which delivers clean air and community connection across Australia.”

It’s clear that Australia’s transport system exacerbates public health challenges and the climate crisis:

  • Air pollution from road transport is linked with thousands of premature deaths in Australia 
  • The University of Melbourne estimates that transport-related air pollution causes 19,000 hospitalisations from heart and respiratory conditions and 66,000 cases of asthma each year
  • Car-centric cities encourage physical inactivity, causally linked with type 2 diabetes, dementia, coronary heart disease, stroke, depression, and some cancers
  • In 2021-22, over 60,000 people were hospitalised and over 1,000 died with road-related injuries

The alliance of organisations, which includes the Australasian College of Road Safety, Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association and the Consumers Health Forum, is calling for federal funding and leadership on:

  • Public infrastructure to encourage walking and cycling
  • An electrified public transport system
  • Fuel efficiency standards for cleaner cars
  • Electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Climate and health impact assessments for new infrastructure projects

“Decarbonising our transport system is good for everyone. Minister King can unlock a broad array of positive outcomes for our community’s health,” Ms Walter said.

The call follows the release of a new report by the Climate and Health Alliance, Clearing the Air: Transport decarbonisation and our health, which comprehensively reviews the health outcomes of Australia’s transport system.

CEO at the Australasian College of Road Safety, Dr Ingrid Johnston, said climate change and road safety are closely linked, and as a major emitter, the transport sector must undergo transformative change.

“Active and sustainable mobility options such as public transport must be prioritised to decarbonise the transport system to benefit road safety and the environment. 

“Providing affordable, safe, accessible, and available public transport as well as access to active travel infrastructure such as cycle paths, footpaths, and safe pedestrian crossing facilities is key to changing how our communities move about,” Dr Johnston said.

Media contact: Sally Spalding, 0401 184 986