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Estimating the Costs and Benefits of Providing Free Public Transit Passes to Students in Los Angeles County: Lessons Learned in Applying a Health Lens to Decision-Making


In spite of increased focus by public health to engage and work with non-health sector partners to improve the health of the general as well as special populations, only a paucity of studies have described and disseminated emerging lessons and promising practices that can be used to undertake this work. This article describes the process used to conduct a Health Impact Assessment of a proposal to provide free public transportation passes to students in Los Angeles County. This illustrative case example describes opportunities and challenges encountered in working with an array of cross-sector partners and highlights four important lessons learned: (1) the benefits and challenges associated with broad conceptualization of public issues; (2) the need for more comprehensive, longitudinal data systems and dynamic simulation models to inform decision-making; (3) the importance of having a comprehensive policy assessment strategy that considers health impacts as well as costs and feasibility; and (4) the need for additional efforts to delineate the interconnectivity between health and other agency priorities. As public health advances cross-sector work in the community, further development of these priorities will help advance meaningful collaboration among all partners.

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