2017 International Seminar on Sports Science

Modelling the health economic benefits of walking and cycling



Physical inactivity is a substantial public health problem in most regions of the world, causing physical, mental, and social health challenges.These can manifest as economic burdens on national health systems.


Conversely, increasing population physical activity has the potential to improve health, and confer economic benefits.Walking and cycling (sometimes referred to as ‘active travel’) are considered priority types of physical activity to promote as they are accessible to many and can be incorporated into daily life.


Part of making the case for walking and cycling promotion is being able to estimate the magnitude of the health economic benefits that are likely to occur. This is no simple task, and there are a multitude of potential methods. Additionally, the likely audience should be considered, and transport planners and policy makers are critical in urban design decisions that influence walking and cycling.


This talk will describe the World Health Organization’s Heath Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for Walking and Cycling.This is a multidisciplinary tool (available at http://www.heatwalkingcycling.org/) that allows users to conduct an economic assessment of the health benefits of walking and cycling by estimating the value of reduced mortality that results from specified amounts of these activities.The HEAT can be used to assess current situations or past investments. It is based on best available international evidence, with default parameters that can be adapted to fit specific situations.


Dr Paul Kelly led the epidemiological review that drives the HEAT. He will present the findings from this review, showing the population health benefits of walking and cycling. This review synthesised data from 18 international cohort studies (including two from China) and estimated the reduction in mortality from reaching global health physical activity recommendations through walking and cycling


Dr Kelly will go on to explain how these data are used in the HEAT to generate economic estimates. He will explain how air pollution and road safety are incorporated in the Tool and some of the limitations to the methods underpinning the Tool. Finally he will present a case study from China to demonstrate how the Tool can be applied.