By Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator, Federal Transportation Administration, Department of Transportation
About 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical appointments every year because they lack a ride to the doctor. Given that America’s population is aging, and about half of us live with at least one chronic condition, getting regular health care is more important than ever.
Creating and supporting communities that are age-friendly allows older adults to age in place and supports their continued health and vitality. Soon, the White House Conference on Aging expects to issue a policy brief on Healthy Aging that explores these concerns as well as potential solutions.
And "Ride to Wellness," a program to make sure people can get a ride to the healthcare they need, is a great step toward addressing these needs.
That’s why, today, I joined an excellent group of leaders in the fields of health care, transportation, veterans’ affairs and agriculture as part of the Ride to Wellness summit.
It was a great opportunity for cross-agency collaboration with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, and others. We spent the afternoon sharing ideas to improve health through transportation, with a focus on non-emergency medical visits such as post-operative therapy and managing chronic conditions. These regular appointments are critical, as managing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes totals more than 80 percent of health care costs in this country.
Public transportation is key to making health care accessible and potentially lowering those costs. Creating reliable options for patients to get to medical appointments can reduce hospital stays as well as ensure that people from all backgrounds stay healthy.
As our approach to health care is transformed by the Affordable Care Act and good health care practices are now within reach for more Americans, we need to remove barriers for the newly insured to be able to get to regular check-ups, especially if they don't have access to a car.
At the summit, which was co-organized by the Federal Transit Administration and the National Center for Mobility Management, I pointed to examples where creative transportation services improved medical outcomes. At FTA, we led the Veterans Transportation Community Living Incentive Program, which invested in “one call, one click” centers that improve health care access for service members, seniors and others. In Texas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit developed user-friendly hospital kiosks that help patients get faster rides. And in Portland, Oregon, a nonprofit runs a comprehensive bus service that not only takes patients to care appointments, but also to the grocery store.
Rides to Wellness builds on Secretary Foxx’s Ladders of Opportunity initiative, which emphasizes access to transportation for all Americans. Our work at the summit forges more connections between health care and transportation so we can extend a sturdy ladder from patients to health care. Ideas generated today set the stage for a new look at how we can link ideas to action and create a healthier America.
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