This study (www.iconnect.ac.uk) used the Health Economic Assessment Tools (HEAT) for walking and cycling to estimate the economic value of health benefits attributable to Connect2, a programme of constructing or improving 84 local walking and cycling routes around the UK.
Economic appraisal of walking and cycling interventions in the physical environment is often conducted, and it is usually the case that a new scheme or programme will only receive funding if projected costs are outweighed by the projected benefits. The economic impact of an intervention on factors including congestion and the environment are commonly assessed, however, consideration of the health benefits that emerge from such interventions are commonly overlooked.
Average weekly times spent walking and cycling before and after the intervention were estimated from 536 adult survey respondents who reported using Connect2 infrastructure. Average weekly usage before and after the intervention was derived from count data for 27 sites. It was assumed that average changes in time spent, and counts of, walking and cycling applied across all Connect2 sites. Default HEAT input values were used for relative risk of mortality, value of a statistical life, and time frame for calculating mean annual benefit. The benefit-cost ratio was calculated using the overall cost of the programme (£170 million) and a 3.5% discount rate for future resource savings. The final model was based on a five year build-up for benefits, a two year build-up for uptake, and a 30 year assessment period.
Interim model outputs indicate benefit-cost ratios in a range (>4-1):1 as a result of increases in walking and cycling attributable to use of Connect2 infrastructure.
HEAT can be used for transparent consideration of health benefits. The model suggests significant financial savings as a result of increased numbers of people walking and cycling.