2018-04-07 / News

Mackinac Island To Host International Transport, Health Conference


Karyn Warsow of Gaylord founded the International Conference on Transport and Health, which will be held on Mackinac Island this June. Ms. Warsow is pictured at the first conference in London. (International Conference on Transport and Health photographs) Karyn Warsow of Gaylord founded the International Conference on Transport and Health, which will be held on Mackinac Island this June. Ms. Warsow is pictured at the first conference in London. (International Conference on Transport and Health photographs) An international conference that will investigate the connection between transportation systems and human health will be held on Mackinac Island in June. Boasting more than 100 presenters, the conference promises to be an experimental exploration of the topic aimed to get attendees out of their comfort zone, according to conference founder Karyn Warsow of Gaylord. She is the founder and executive director of the Transportation Public Health Link (TPH Link), an organization dedicated to connecting transportation and public health researchers and professionals to find creative solutions to transit issues around the world.

Having worked in trauma and critical care medicine before establishing TPH Link, Ms. Warsow wanted to educate people in the transportation industry about public health impacts. In her view, transportation planners are responsible for creating systems that affect people every day.


At the 2015 International Conference on Tranport and Health, attendees participated in a bicycle and bus safety workshop. The conference will be held on Mackinac Island this year, and will feature similar learning opportunities. At the 2015 International Conference on Tranport and Health, attendees participated in a bicycle and bus safety workshop. The conference will be held on Mackinac Island this year, and will feature similar learning opportunities. “ Everything they do in communities impacts our quality of life, health, and wellbeing,” she said.

Through her cross- disciplinary approach to problem solving, Ms. Warsow engaged economists, urban planners, transportation engineers, public health researchers, local government officials, regional directors of business, and others to form the organization. She wants each group to understand community-wide issues, such as how a new fast food chain might affect the health of residents in a town without a grocery store and what diseases poor diets could lead to in communities.


An international conference that will be held on Mackinac Island this summer will feature research on transportation and its effects on humans. Previous conference participant Oliver Charlesworth of the United Kingdom won an award at the event when it was held in London for his research on how a community’s walkability impacts obesity rates. An international conference that will be held on Mackinac Island this summer will feature research on transportation and its effects on humans. Previous conference participant Oliver Charlesworth of the United Kingdom won an award at the event when it was held in London for his research on how a community’s walkability impacts obesity rates. “It’s really a systems approach to bringing together transportation and health,” she said, drawing together political, social, cultural, environmental, and economic considerations to design better systems for people.

These broad approaches to solving transportation and public health challenges will be explored at the International Conference of Transport and Health, which will be held at Mission Point Resort June 24 through 27. This is the second time the conference has been held in the United States. In its first year, the conference was held in London, then San Jose, California, in its second year, and Barcelona last year. Next year, a two-day seminar will be held in Dubai and a four-day conference will be held in Melbourne, Australia.

Some tickets may be available for the public to attend keynote talks if space allows, Ms. Warsow said, and will be announced closer to the event.

Giving the keynote address Monday, June 25, will be former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who oversaw the U.S. Department of Transportation from 2009 to 2013, having been appointed by President Barack Obama. Beth Osborne of Smart Growth America, an advocacy coalition that helps leaders improve their communities, will give another talk. Kenneth Stecker, a traffic safety resource prosecutor with the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, is also scheduled to speak.

Presenters from 18 countries are slated to share their research and experiences. A group from Nigeria and southeast Michigan will talk about the difficulty of transferring medical patients in emergency vehicles in high-traffic areas. Other presenters will hail from across the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Chile, Belgium, Argentina, Australia, Germany, and Hong Kong.

Other industries represented include medicine, public health, urban planning, architecture, and parks and recreation.

“Anything that you can think of,” she said. “Any profession that is involved in transport and health.”

The conference is a way to build a community and network of professionals, researchers, and students from around the world to integrate public health into transportation, which takes planning and risk, Ms. Warsow said. Having lived most of her life in northern Michigan, she wanted to bring the conference home, where she hopes some of the innovative ideas about transportation systems will be incorporated.

“Making this conference available in Northern Michigan is a big opportunity,” she said, “and hopefully a lot of our local community leaders will take advantage of this learning and networking event.”

As communities grow and change, she said transportation should be reimagined, whether making a community more friendly to pedestrians or bicyclists or reducing the number of traffic lanes. These types of ideas will be shared at the conference by the many international presenters.

“The conference is about reengineering how we think of things,” she said.

The conference, Ms. Warsow said, promises to be a fastpaced, enjoyable four days of learning for participants of all ages and experiences. Students ranging in age from undergraduates to post-doctoral researchers comprise about 25% of those who attend the conference. As the future of the transportation and health industry, they are essential to include, she said, and often have the most creative ideas and are willing to take risks. The conference will also feature a “hack-a-thon,” where the students will work together to solve a problem with innovative ideas.

She has worked to foster a collaborative environment where participants are encouraged to talk to one another. There are no credentials listed on name badges, she said, which helps students to talk comfortably with professionals or seasoned researchers.

“That’s when you have a free flow of information,” she said. “People are talking passionately about their projects, and they just end up collaborating.”

Mackinac Island is the prefect venue because of its historic ban on motor vehicles, Ms. Warsow said. Having spent much of her childhood in Gaylord, she often brought visitors to the Island on vacations and knew the conference’s international attendees would enjoy experiencing the destination.

“It’s been really exciting to talk to people and receive emails from people around the world who are really excited to come to Mackinac Island,” she said.

Many of the international participants will bring their families along for the trip and will arrive in Michigan early or stay after the conference. Ms. Warsow plans to provide travel information about other northern Michigan destinations like Tahquamenon Falls, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Traverse City for them to explore, as well.

For more information about the International Conference on Transport and Health, visit: https://www.tphlink.com/icth- 2018-mackinac-island.html.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2018-04-07 digital edition