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Study: Urban Sprawl Delays Ambulance Arrival in U.S.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Previous research has demonstrated links between urban sprawl and many of our most pressing public health issues, including obesity and traffic injuries. New research from the University of Virginia Health System shows that urban sprawl also causes delays in ambulances reaching their destinations in sprawling sections of large metropolitan areas in the United States. The study appears in the November edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Hospital emergency departments all over the country are implementing partnerships with their local emergency medical services (EMS) to improve pre-hospital care for patients. Such efforts may be stalled by delays in ambulances reaching their destinations.

"Emergency response time within communities is an important metric for demonstrating how well we are able to care for the needs of our citizens. In the United States, development patterns have been mostly driven by economic efficiencies for developers and growth has gone largely unregulated. Unfortunately, we are only beginning to catch up with regard to understanding the health effects of sprawl as well as the cost and difficulty of providing necessary services such as reliable emergency care to people within these areas that we have created," says Matthew J. Trowbridge, MD, MPH, lead investigator and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the UVA School of Medicine.

Trowbridge set out to prove that sprawling development increases the likelihood of delayed arrival times for emergency rescue vehicles. The research team obtained EMS response times for more than 43,000 motor-vehicle crashes that took place within large metropolitan areas across the country. Sprawl at each crash location was measured using a county-level index that incorporates measures of residential density, proximity of residential and commercial areas, strength of town centers and street network connectivity. The relationship between sprawl and the probability of delayed ambulance arrival time-greater than eight minutes-was then measured while controlling for conditions than can also affect EMS response time such as time of day, weather, and presence of construction.

The analysis demonstrated that urban sprawl is associated with significantly increased EMS response time and a higher probability of delayed ambulance arrival.

Read More, Urban Sprawl Delays Ambulance Arrival in the U.S.; University of Virgina Researchers Hope to Influence Large-Scale Policy and Street Design Changes

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