The Health Equity Blog’s mission is to contribute to the discussion of health policy using evidence and research, to explore the opportunities for health equity through policy change, to raise awareness about health disparities, and to increase public advocacy for health equality.

According to the CDC, “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to ‘attain his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.’”

Achievement of full health potential is necessary in all aspects of life – from running errands to relationships with loved ones. Some people are born into environments that limit their ability to achieve their full health potential. We believe that because society created many health inequalities, society can also fix them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bike Sharing in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Bike Sharing in the United States
Citywide bike sharing programs have rolled out across many major cities in the United States, including:

Bike sharing programs offer either memberships or hourly access to bikes in a given geographic area. Docking stations for the bikes are usually less than a mile apart and provide ample opportunities to return the bike close to the users’ destination.

Link Between Environments and Health
As stated in our last post, rates of obesity and overweight are alarmingly high across the country, and tend to be higher in minority and lower income communities. In the last decade policy makers have noted the effects the environment has on rates of obesity and overweight individuals. On it’s website, the CDC lists environment as an obesity/overweight cause: “People may make decisions based on their environment or community. For example, a person may choose not to walk to the store or to work because of a lack of sidewalks. Community, home, child care, school, health care, and workplace settings can all influence people's health decisions. Therefore, it is important to create environments in these locations that make it easier to engage in physical activity and eat a healthy diet.” Source: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html

Bike sharing programs are one of many effective ways of creating healthier environments. Bikes provide physical activity and a mode of active transportation to get to different areas of the city for food, jobs, and health care. Given the CDC’s stated link between environment and obesity, it is no surprise that many cities are interested in bike sharing.

Divvy Bikes
I currently am a member of Divvy Bikes in Chicago. In fact, I probably was one of the first people to sign up for a membership. I was THRILLED. In my experience it works exactly how it should. In fact, I tell people all the time to use Divvy.  However, there is a huge problem with this:

This advertisement is on a bus stop in South Chicago. To be more specific, the advertisement is miles and miles from any current or planned Divvy station.  So, the residents of South Chicago are seeing advertisements for Divvy, but have no access to it.

The area of South Chicago (Chicago Community Area 46) is roughly two-thirds African American and one-fourth Hispanic. Over 25% of households are living below poverty with about 20% unemployed. An estimated 50% of South side residents are overweight or obese and only 20% perceived their health status as fair. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497558/pdf/12815078.pdf

This bus stop is a block from where I work, so I know the area. I also know that I never see people riding bikes. However, that is not to say people in this low-income neighborhood would not use the bikes.

Barriers in Low-Income Neighborhoods
The Federal Transportation Agency published a report about developing bike share programs. The report does have a couple paragraphs about issues of equity. The report states, “Use of bike share systems by [low income] communities has so far been limited in the U.S., despite [low-income populations] increased reliance on public transportation and historically low rates of auto ownership.” Currently, there are many barriers for low-income individuals including the need for a credit card, perception of neighborhood safety, the internet-based sign up and account creation and language. Source: http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/promote/bikeshareintheus.pdf

I argue that one of the largest barriers to bike sharing among low-income residents might be cultural. What if it was more normal to see people biking? What if low-income residents received the same benefits as residents in higher income neighborhoods? My concern is equity of fitness opportunities. To me this is a perfect example of a positive health-promoting program increasing health disparities. And yes, I am a member of Divvy Bikes and am supporting the program. Hopefully, by talking about how low-income neighborhoods are being left out, I can raise awareness. Then, maybe cities everywhere will take an active role in putting the same resources in low-income neighborhoods as they do in others.

No comments:

Post a Comment