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Since 2004, the Active Living Research (ALR) Conference has focused on advancing knowledge and practice related to the creation of communities that increase opportunities for physical activity. Communities designed for active living are better for health, economic vitality, and environmental sustainability. The Annual ALR Conference serves as a premier venue for cross-disciplinary learning, as over 30 disciplines are represented among participants. This commentary serves as an introduction to a virtual Special Section of Journal of Transport and Health that includes several of the best transport-related studies that were presented at ALR 2017. The theme of the 2017 ALR Conference, Active Living across the Life Span, placed emphasis on the importance of promoting physical activity from childhood through mature adulthood and offered solutions for achieving this goal. The theme challenged attendees to consider the myriad needs across age cohorts and the ways that community design, policies, and programs affect opportunities for active living. The conference highlighted the importance of policy-relevant research and facilitated cross-sector exchange among scientists, practitioners, and policymakers to create and sustain active living environments where residents can grow, live, and thrive at any age. Jana Lyncott from the AARP Public Policy Institute delivered the Keynote Address on creating environments for active and engaged living for all ages. The presentation provided examples from communities across the United States that are promoting livability and fostering healthy, active, and engaged lifestyles. The presentation highlighted AARP's Livability Index, which scores neighborhoods and communities for the services and amenities that have a significant impact on residents. The featured panel included Drs. Adrian Bauman, NiCole Keith, and David Bann and focused on the challenges of integrating equity perspectives in research on active living across the lifespan. Dr. Bauman, from Australia, shared lessons from his research on middle-age-to-older adults and his international collaborations. Dr. Keith, from the United States, described the effort to ensure disadvantaged populations were given high priority in developing the multi-sector strategies of the US National Physical Activity Plan. Dr. Bann, from the UK, presented findings on active living across the lifespan from a large, long-term birth cohort study. The second panel featured Deputy Commissioner Adetokunbo 'Toks' Omishakin, (Tennessee Department of Transportation), Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (City of Toronto, Canada), and Otis Johnson (Former Mayor of Savannah, Georgia) and provided local and state examples of active transportation and lessons learned. A clear takeaway from the keynote and panelists was the need to integrate and apply life-course research and practice/policy lessons learned to most effectively create activity-supportive cities. The concept of active living includes physical activity for all purposes, including transport, recreation, occupation, and household. Active transport continues to be a dominant theme at ALR Conferences, and the link between transport and health outcomes is rising on research and policy agendas internationally, as shown by extensive coverage in Journal of Transport and Health and the 2016 Lancet Series on Urban Design, Transport, and Health. In the Lancet Series, Giles-Corti and colleagues (2016) reviewed a wide range of physical, mental, and social health problems linked with motorized transport. Stevenson and colleagues (2016) reported models that revealed a shift of just 10% of motorized trips to active modes could produce important reductions in mortality in cities as diverse as Copenhagen and Delhi. Thus, as co-chairs of the ALR 2017 Conference we want to thank Dr. Jennifer Mindell, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Transport and Health, for facilitating this virtual special section of papers that will further advance evidence on active transport and health.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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