Nearly half of area residents in Eastern Kentucky and Southern Ohio identified their primary means of transportation as being something other than a personal automobile.
The finding was just one of many revelations from a new study released by Healthy Choices, Healthy Communities (HCHC).
The coalition study resulted from a $35,000 planning grant from the Community Transportation Association of America to identify gaps, facilitate development, and to connect transportation systems in the area.
The grant funding was utilized to conduct 10 community focus groups in the Kentucky counties of Greenup, Boyd and Carter and Lawrence County in Ohio.
The focus groups attracted nearly 140 participants. Further information for the study was garnered from 696 surveys completed by area residents concerning transportation resources and challenges. The steering committee included representatives from non-profits and transportation providers. Special effort was taken to include in the study and steering committee those set to benefit from an interconnected transportation system, such as people with disabilities, the elderly and family caregivers.
While 55 percent of those participating in the HCHC transportation study identified a personal automobile as their primary means of transportation, 21 percent identified a public bus system, 25 percent named a friend or family member and 13.5 percent said that walking was their primary means of getting around. Other significant findings of the study included:
•38 percent of respondents find it difficult at times to find transportation
•56 percent of participants have used a transportation service such as a public bus system, medicab, taxi, or hospital van ministry
•55 percent of participants use a transportation service at least once a month
•67 percent expressed that transportation services could be improved through more free or low-cost transportation options.
Many focus group participants expressed a lack of awareness regarding public transportation services and said it was challenging for them to navigate the system. Some expressed a belief that better coordination between transportation providers and nonprofit organizations could improve awareness of available options. The focus groups also included some participants who indicated available transportation options were too expensive for them to utilize.
HCHC representative Joseph Mazzawi said the transportation assessment will help pave the way for future work for the coalition and others.
“This study shows us the opportunities that exist for improvement,” Mazzawi said.
“In particular, our focus groups really brought to light the fact non-profits could greatly benefit from closer collaboration with existing transportation services. Our area’s faith community can aid in this process, but we need to do a better job of engaging and educating them. Better communication and customer service training are other recommendations that resulted from the HCHC study. As a coalition focused on improving the health of our communities, we realize transportation barriers are also barriers to health, be it accessing proper care or even basics such as nutrition, employment and resources,” Mazzawi added.
HCHC is comprised of members throughout the Tri-State region and open to the public. The mission statement of the organization is “to improve the health of our communities through collaboration, education, prevention and access to healthy choices.”
(provided by Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital)