Health and Mobility

The significant contribution of transport and mobility to the development and the livelihoods of poor people is widely recognised. However, the development sector is yet to fully acknowledge and understand the role of transport in improving poor people’s health. In the context of the need to step up development activity to meet the Millennium Development Goals, a better understanding of the relationship between mobility and health becomes a priority.

Transport can have both a positive and negative impact on poor people’s health.  Improving transport infrastructure and services has the potential to increase poor people’s access to health services, enable better servicing of health outposts, increase the flow of health information and can facilitate the movement of health extension workers.  Improved access can also help improve the accessibility of safe water supplies, which has positive consequences for the health of communities. These factors, in turn, contribute to reducing morbidity and mortality, to increasing awareness about reproductive issues, and to improving livelihoods and reducing poverty.  For example the construction of feeder roads providing motorized transport connecting 45 villages in the Darfur region of Sudan are reported to have influenced measurable impacts on community health, such as a rise in immunization of children.  The study found that road provision enabled the equipping and supply of health outlets, and that access to services and technologies was further improved by a concurrent revolving drug fund. 

The experience with the spread of HIV/AIDS has dramatically shown that improving access and mobility can also have strong negative impacts.  Developing transport corridors for long-distance goods transport often results in changing patterns of sexual activity, an increase in the number of sexual partners and the diffusion of HIV.  Many large-scale transport sector programmes and initiatives that work on combating the spread of HIV/AIDS are now working to address this problem through awareness training of transport workers and sex workers along these corridors.

 As a global network of members interested in the social aspects of rural transport issues, the IFRTD acknowledges that there is a need to demonstrate and document the strong linkages between Mobility and Health.  To this end, a workshop was held in Bern in November 2004, organised by TransNet (the network of Swiss professionals working in the transport sector in developing countries) in collaboration with IFRTD, and supported by the Mobility and Health desks of the Social Development Division of SDC, along with inputs from the Swiss Centre for International Health, transport and health specialists – mainly from the south - discussed some less-known yet important issues relating to mobility and health. Following on from this workshop the same partners have organised a major collaborative network research programme bringing together 20 researchers from Africa, Asia and Latin America to examine the relationship between mobility and health, particularly in relation to MDG 5 - a 75% reduction in maternal mortality by 2015. For more information on the various events and programmes see Resources below.


Mobility and Health - An IFRTD International Networked Research Programme 2006 - 2007. Click here for more information about the programme, its outputs and other mobility and health links and resources.

Workshop on Mobility and Health, Bern, Switzerland. November 2004. Click here for more information and the full workshop report.

Mobility and Health: The Impact of Transport Provision on direct and Proximate Determinants of Access to Health Services. An article by Dr Kate Molesworth, Swiss Tropical Institute. January 2006. Click here to download (Word Doc 2.98MB - PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A LARGE DOWNLOAD)

Dr Andrea Gutiérrez

Global Campaign against AIDS: Towards an inter-sectoral focus on health and mobility.

The 'three delays model' is applicable to emergency journeys but not to journeys for healthcare where a single visit to the doctor cannot resolve the problem. If, in considering the impact of mobility on access to healthcare, we think of one journey between two places, some relevant information will have been lost. We will have an over simplified view of a complex problem. Access to healthcare needs to be evaluated in terms of healthcare services as a whole (having tests analysed, receiving medication etc) and not just in terms of access to places. That approach is inadequate, especially in cases where long term treatment or periodic check-ups are neccessary (as with HIV/AIDS or pregnancy).

The Argentinian team of the Mobility and Health Network are developing a model to gather evidence on the impact of travelling on access to public healthcare for pregnant adolescents in the outskirts of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region (BAMR).

Click here to read more

Motorbike Ambulances and Rural Maternal Health (Malawi)
Rebecca Crouch

Whilst Dowa’s neighbouring districts’ maternal mortality rates continue to
increase, Dowa’s maternal mortality rate dropped by almost half in the first 12
months of Emergency Obstetric Care referral transport provision. By the end of the second year maternal mortality rates had fallen further still.
Click here to read more

Rural mobility for women accessing health services
José Alfonso Balbuena Cruz

Identifying and analysing the travel patterns of women accessing health services available in the Pinal de Amoles municipality in Querétaro state, Mexico.
Click here to read more

Preventing the spread of HIV/AIDs, Ebola and Malaria among transport operators and their communities in Kenya
Naboth Juma Okoth

Generally the higher prevalence of diseases such as EBOLA and HIV/AIDS among transport operators is an indication of the increased risk that the partners of transport operators and communities living in areas of intense transport activity are exposed to.
Click here to read more


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