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Getting to the Doctor

Geography and Planning’s Catherine Lawson will help assess a key wellness aspect related to the Affordable Care Act.

Named to a federal committee of transit and healthcare, Kate Lawson has built AVAIL into a nationally respected resource for visualizing big data in order to enhance transportation planning. (Photo and design by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 4, 2016) — Low-cost or even free healthcare isn’t very affordable if you can’t get to a provider. That is why the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has assembled what it calls a “terrific” 10-member planning committee of health and transit experts, including UAlbany’s Catherine T. Lawson, to delve into the relationship between transit and healthcare in America.

One of the key issues the committee will explore is if a new investment in public transit will overcome missed appointments and other obstacles created by transportation difficulties. The situation is particularly acute for the poor and underrepresented minorities.

In Kate Lawson, the committee has discovered a true research leader in getting transit to work for all populations. As Associate Professor of Geography and Planning, and director of both the Lewis Mumford Center and the Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab (AVAIL), Lawson has built AVAIL into a nationally respected resource for government and business clients to visualize big data in order to enhance evidence-based transportation planning.

“This research area is a very good fit for UAlbany, given AVAIL’s advanced research in web-based, open source transit planning and analysis tool suites and also our Center for Minority Health Disparities,” said Lawson. “It’s a topic that is very important to the success of the wellness mission of the Affordable Health Care Act.”

AVAIL at UAlbany researchers

AVAIL team researchers who have helped create web-based, open source transit planning and analysis tools are lead programmer Alex Muro (left) and Eric Krans, AT&T Tech Valley Civic App Challenge award winners. (Photo by Mike Nolan)

Among the projects tackled by the AVAIL team have been a web-based “Bus Stop Level Transit Demand Modelling” tool suite for NJTransit; development of a web-based traffic data analytics module for six state DOTs at the behest of the Federal Highway Administration; a statewide traffic bottleneck map for New York State DOT; and an Entrepreneurial Landscape Analysis Tool that highlights business type distributions, property value, and income, commissioned by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The FTA has brought together two divisions of Engineering and Medicine section of the National Academies of Sciences — the Institute of Medicine and the Transportation Research Board — to lead this transportation-to-healthcare effort.

In addition to Lawson, the planning committee’s full membership includes:

  • Ysela Llort, formerly of Miami-Dade Transit
  • Marsha Regenstein, Department of Health Policy, George Washington University
  • Judith Kell, Mercy Health Muskegon
  • Paul Hughes-Cromwick, Center for Sustainable Health Spending, Altarum Institute
  • Michelle Proser, Policy Research, National Association of Community Health Centers
  • Perry Meadows, Government Programs, Geisinger Health Plan
  • Elaine Wells, Ride Connection
  • Rich Garrity, RLS & Associates, Inc.
  • Nigel Wilson, MIT Transit Research Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Our previous research with transit planning and business locations are surely important aspects of the issues surrounding how best to get everyone to their health-oriented appointments, and to do so with a strong return on investment” said Lawson. “These topics will be discussed at an upcoming two-day workshop planned by the FTA, where we will examine community level data relating to building partnerships between health and transportation providers.”

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