Health impact modelling of different travel patterns on physical activity, air pollution and road injuries for São Paulo, Brazil.

01 Aug 2017

BACKGROUND: São Paulo city, Brazil, faces challenges caused by rapid urbanization. We illustrate how future travel patterns could lead to different health consequences in the city. METHODS: We evaluated the health impacts of different travel pattern scenarios for the São Paulo adult population by comparing the travel patterns of São Paulo in 2012 with counterfactual scenarios in which the city adopted travel patterns of i) those living in the city's expanded centre; ii) London (2012); iii) a highly motorized São Paulo (SP California); and iv) a visionary São Paulo (SP 2040), with high levels of walking and cycling and low levels of car and motorcycle use. For each scenario we estimated changes in exposure to air pollution, road injury risk, and physical activity. Health outcomes were estimated using disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and premature deaths averted. Sensitivity analyses were performed to identify the main sources of uncertainty. RESULTS: We found considerable health gains in the SP 2040 scenario (total 63.6k DALYs avoided), with 4.7% of premature deaths from ischemic heart disease avoided from increases in physical activity alone. Conversely, we found substantial health losses in the scenario favouring private transport (SP California, total increase of 54.9k DALYs), with an increase in road traffic deaths and injuries among pedestrians and motorized vehicles. Parameters related to air pollution had the largest impact on uncertainty. CONCLUSIONS: Shifting travel patterns towards more sustainable transport can provide major health benefits in São Paulo. Reducing the uncertainties in the findings should be a priority for empirical and modelling research on the health impacts of such shifts.