High rates of motorization in urban areas of Africa have adverse effects on public health. Transport-related mortality will increase as a result of inadequate transport infrastructure, air pollution and sedentary lifestyles. Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) have proven to be a successful tool to predict and mitigate negative health impact of urban transport planning policies, programmes or projects. Yet, there is a gap of evidence on transport and health in African countries. The aim of this study is assessing the health impacts of transport scenarios in Port Louis (city of 119,018 inhabitants in Mauritius) using a full chain participatory HIA model.
We estimated health and economic impacts associated to transport scenarios with qualitative data and quantitative comparative risk assessment methods. The health impact modeling was based on differences between the baseline and three transport scenarios (worse, good, ideal), estimating the averted deaths per year and economic outcomes by assessing health determinants of air pollution (AP), traffic deaths and physical activity (PA). Data on air pollution and traffic fatalities were obtained from public data sources. Data used to construct scenarios, establish baseline travel mode shares and physical activity were collected through (a) open-ended individual interviews (IDIs) with 14 stakeholders (b) closed-ended survey questions to 600 citizens and (c) 2 focus group discussions (FGDs) with the same 14 stakeholders from (a).
In Port Louis, the worse-case transport scenario (doubling in car trips and a reduction in walking, motorcycle, and public transport), resulted in a total increment of 3.28 premature deaths per year. The good-case scenario (reducing car trips by half and increasing walking, motorcycle, and public transport trips) resulted in a total increment of 0.79 premature deaths per year. The ideal-case scenario (reduction in car and motorcycle trips and an increase in walking and public transport trips) resulted in a total reduction of 13.72 premature deaths per year. We estimated USD 23 millions of economic benefits related to mortality if the ideal-case was achieved.
Participatory HIA shows that implementing transport policies aiming for less than an ideal situation may not be adequate or sufficient to avoid negative transport-related mortality in Mauritius. Urban transport planning is an opportunity to encourage physical activity in rapidly urbanizing settings of Africa. Transport policies should aim to restrict all forms of private motorized vehicles and promote active and public transport to support public health. We highly recommend the use of participatory approaches in quantitative HIA to ensure context specificity and policy relevance.