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Back to School, Safely

Submitted by CCPH on March 19, 2014 at 4:32pm.
Columbia Community Partnership for Health

In 2005, Congress allocated $612 million for a federal Safe Routes to School program to protect children biking and walking to school by a range of measures, from widening sidewalks and installing speed bumps to teaching kids about safety. In January 2013, Pediatrics published an analysis by Mailman School [of Public Health] faculty showing that as a result, the annual rate of injury to school-age pedestrians fell 44 percent during the peak times for walking to school in New York City neighborhoods where the safety program was implemented. Significantly, the injury rate did not drop in parts of the city where the program was not in place. “Our data show that interventions to make the built environment safer can greatly reduce injuries,” says lead author Charles J. DiMaggio, MPH ’93, PHD ’02, associate professor of Epidemiology and research director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia.

The Safe Routes to School program was funded through 2012 and is now in place in all 50 states, at approximately 10 percent of elementary and secondary schools. Under the federal transportation bill, MaP-21, the Safe Routes program will no longer have dedicated funding. For now, state and municipal officials will have to decide whether the program is a good choice for their constituents. “Our study provides compelling empirical evidence that is essential to guiding policy makers,” says senior author Guohua Li, MD, PHD, Finster Professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention. “The Safe Routes to School program has madea marked difference in improving the safety of school-age children in NewYork City.”

Source: Mailman School of Public Health (2013). Data Points 7-11, Back to School, Safely. Retrieved from