WHO/Europe is turning up the HEAT! December 2012

The European branch of the World Health Organization has developed the Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling. The HEAT tool is an online resource to estimate the economic savings resulting from reductions in mortality as a consequence of regular cycling and/or walking.

HEAT can be used by walking and cycling advocates, researchers and policymakers alike. It enables users to estimate the value to health of new infrastructure, policies or programmes. These can be used to make the case for new investment or to build out comprehensive health impact assessments. A well needed addition as daily moderate physical activity can reduce mortality by 30%.

The HEAT project was first presented at the 2011 summit of the International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig, Germany, where WHO/Europe also launched the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 and its Global Plan in the WHO European Region. This plan sets out how countries can save money, as well as lives. Road-traffic crashes kill over 350 Europeans every day, or over 120 000 per year. This unacceptable toll is particularly high in low- and middle-income countries.

The development of HEAT was carried out within the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) and in close collaboration with HEPA Europe. It is supported by an international advisory group of economists and experts on health, physical activity and transport.

How does it work?
According to the website. The tool is designed to help you conduct an economic assessment of the health benefits of walking or cycling by estimating the value of reduced mortality that results from specified amounts of walking or cycling.

Essentially, HEAT is an online resource to estimate the economic savings resulting from reductions in mortality as a consequence of regular cycling and/or walking. It is based on best available evidence, with parameters that can be adapted to fit specific situations. Default parameters are valid for the European context.

In short, HEAT calculates the answer to the following question: if x people cycle or walk y distance on most days, what is the economic value of mortality rate improvements?

The HEAT tool can be applied in many situations, for example:

  • To plan a new piece of cycling or walking infrastructure: it models the impact of different levels of cycling or walking, and attaches a value to the estimated level when the new infrastructure is in place (this can be compared to the costs to produce a benefit–cost ratio (and help make the case for investment), or as an input into a more comprehensive cost benefit analysis)
  • To value the mortality benefits from current levels of cycling or walking, such as benefits from cycling or walking to a specific workplace, across a city or in a country.
  • To provide input into more comprehensive cost–benefit analyses, or prospective health impact assessments: for instance, to estimate the mortality benefits from achieving national targets to increase cycling or walking, or to illustrate potential cost consequences of a decline in current levels of cycling or walking.

Would you know to learn more?
Lastly, to help people familiarise themselves with this tool, WHO/Europe is now offering online training sessions on the following dates:

  • 14 December 2012
  • 14 January 2013
  • 22 February 2013
  • 15 March 2013

All sessions will start at 15:00 Central European Time, and will last approximately one hour. During this time you will be walked through an example of HEAT, and be able to ask questions online to experts on HEAT! Please register by sending an e-mail to training@heatwalkingcycling.org stating:

  • The date of the session you wish to join.
  • Any details of ways that you have used the HEAT.
  • Any specific questions you would like addressed during the training.

WHO/Europe will then send you details of how to log on and access the training session in due time.

If you didn’t already know the benefits of cycling and walking, now you can specifically measure the benefits on your health and the societal cost! We look forward to the HEAT tool becoming a measurement standard.

Why not get in touch to find out more?
We would love to hear from you!