Profile of a public health programme co-ordinator: Hannah Mitchell
Hannah Mitchel is a Travel Planner with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority. While most public health workers are based in public health services in District Health Boards or Non-Government Organisations, some programme co-ordinators, like Hannah, work within local and regional councils.
A key objective for travel planning is to get people to use active and sustainable transport options and use cars less frequently. This, Hannah says, will have a direct bearing on the health of the population because air and water quality will improve, roads will be safer and people will get more physical exercise.
Hannah engages a number of people and organisations in her travel planning work, including schools, local councils, local residents, community boards, sports trusts and police education officers.
Hannah developed her interest in travel planning during her study toward a Masters Degree in Human Geography where she wrote her thesis about removing barriers for children to use public space. She believes children are often overlooked in travel planning and need to be given more acknowledgement as citizens so that their right to safety, independence and experience is protected.
Hannah and her colleagues have had recent successes in primary schools where walking buses have cut the number of children who are driven to school, increasing their level of physical activity and getting cars off the road at rush hour.
Hannah loves her role. She says innovation, communicating, promoting ideas and problem solving are really important aspects to manage diverse individual and organisational relationships. You also have to be well organised.
Hannah says she could take many paths in her future career, but wants to remain in environmental and sustainable planning.
“One of the best things about the walking bus project is that they are community-owned and operated. This is what I love about public health – communities solving their own problems”