Why mobility is a foundation of Rural Health:
The term mobility is defined as “the ability to move or be moved freely and easily” (source: English Oxford Living Dictionaries). Most are familiar with the term “upward mobility” often used to describe the process of improving an individual or family’s economic status. The word mobility is also used in the context of describing an individual’s physical movement challenges or limitations. More recently, the transportation sector has introduced the concept of “mobility management” to describe an array of services and strategies that consider the unique transportation (mobility) needs of individuals. This individualized approach can inform and drive improvements in service at both the individual and systems levels as transportation gaps and duplication are factored into designing more responsive and efficient transportation solutions.
Why improving mobility “on the ground” is necessary to achieve better rural health outcomes:
Think of the array of trips that rural residents need to make to access employment or health care and to procure other essential goods and services. The extent to which these trips can be made in a safe, efficient, and affordable manner affects the extent to which rural residents can maximize health and wellness.
Considering the demographics of our region (aging, relatively low incomes, higher rates of chronic disease) and limited affordable transportation service options, there is a need to better address the mobility needs of many older, sicker, and/or lower income rural residents. Improved mobility and affordable transportation options help position rural residents for better health by improving access to healthy food, health care services, education, and social connections.
How addressing the second largest expense for most low income households can contribute to better health outcomes:
Transportation expenses are often the second highest expense to individuals and families after housing.  In some low income rural households, transportation can be the highest expense due to the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle(s) and high operating expenses due to long distances travelling to employment, etc. So here are some ways that effectively addressing the high cost of transportation can have a positive impact on health:
· Providing an affordable, dependable transportation option for accessing employment can make it possible for a rural worker to travel to a better job and potentially a job with health insurance benefits. Increased income and benefits can have a positive impact on health and wellness.
· If the cost of transportation is reduced, income can be freed up for other expenses, including (healthy) food, clothing, household expenses, etc. Consider how reducing the need for two cars to one car in a household with two workers could significantly reduce expenses. This scenario is possible if there is public transportation, ride sharing, or a van-pool available.
Perhaps there is some irony here, but the high cost of mobility (transportation) can be a barrier to “upward mobility” for many rural residents. In order to move up, there needs to be access to education and employment opportunities that generally require dependable, affordable transportation. You could say that in order to move up one must first be able to move side to side…
How does Rural Health Network of SCNY (RHNSCNY) help improve the mobility of rural people and communities?:
Mobility Management of South Central New York (MMSCNY), a program of RHNSCNY, has been helping to address the transportation needs of individuals in our region since 2011. The point of entry for anyone in Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego, and Tioga Counties, with a transportation need or question, is to call the GetThere Call Center at 1-855-373-4040, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. MMSCNY can also be accessed by calling 211.
MMSCNY provides training to individuals or groups that want to learn how to use public transportation. MMSCNY can also assist those who need help with transportation and related expenses to health care appointments through the Connection to Care Program. Other projects in development include The Rural Mobility Project (van-pool services to employment) and the Transportation to Health Toolkit (includes a searchable database to quickly access information on transportation services available for your specific need). For more information call the GetThere Call Center call 1-855-373-4040 or access more information about MMSCNY at the Rural Health Network SCNY Website: http://www.rhnscny.org/programs/mmscny .
1. Federal Highway Administration. (Updated 2015). Transportation and housing costs. Retrieved from: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/fact_sheets/transandhousing.cfm
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