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Good Health Grows on Trees

The influence of nearby nature on public health

Nearly forty years of research and thousands of scientific studies have shaped our understanding of the extraordinary health benefits of urban trees and green spaces. Urban nature has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease, mental illness, ADHD, diabetes, respiratory illness, and asthma; support immune function and family dynamics; increase healthy birth weight and opportunities for physical activity; and much more. According to Dr. Kathleen Wolf [PDF exit DNR], increased investment in urban nature could result in billions of dollars saved in avoided healthcare costs, avoided costs due to crime, and increased lifetime incomes of high school graduates.

Scroll down for our list of the top resources on the health benefits of trees, including websites that compile cutting-edge research, brochures of various lengths, webinars, and organizations and movements that you can join. You’ll also learn how the Wisconsin DNR has been working to educate and involve the public in this research, from our inaugural Good Health Grows on Trees Conference in 2019 to our current projects.

Resources

  • Green Cities, Good Health [exit DNR]
    The authors of this website have complied the findings of more than 3,500 publications and summarized them by 13 topics, such as “Stress, Wellness & Physiology,” “Active Living,” “Healing & Therapy,” and “Crime and Public Safety.”
  • Vibrant Cities Lab [exit DNR]
    This website links to research data and case studies on the health benefits of urban forests, among other topics.
  • WDNR Urban Forestry News [exit DNR]
    Click on the “Health benefits” tag to bring up all the WDNR newsletter articles featuring the health benefits of trees. If you would like to reprint any of these articles in your newsletter or publication, please contact patricia.lindquist@wisconsin.gov for permission and instructions.
  • Trees Promote Wellness [PDF]
    This single-sheet brochure provides a quick overview of the health benefits of trees and urban nature.
  • Nature’s Riches: The Health and Financial Benefits of Nearby Nature [PDF exit DNR]
    This six-page brochure breaks down the health benefits of urban nature by age group (from infants to older adults) and calculates their potential economic value, such as $1.3-2.6 billion saved on hypertension treatment costs in the U.S. annually.
  • Urban Nature for Human Health and Well-being [PDF exit DNR]
    Created by the USDA Forest Service, this 24-page publication provides a thorough review of the health benefits of urban nature and an extensive references section.
  • Urban Trees and Human Health: A Scoping Review [exit DNR]
    Recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, this review “provides a comprehensive summary of existing literature on the health impacts of urban trees and can inform future research, policy, and nature-based public health interventions.”
  • Health Benefits of City Trees: Research Evidence & Economic Values [exit DNR]
    Dr. Kathleen Wolf reviews the state of scientific research on the health benefits of urban trees, describing its depth, breadth, and limitations.
  • Tree Campus Healthcare [exit DNR]
    This new program by the Arbor Day Foundation [exit DNR] recognizes healthcare institutions that make a mission-aligned impact on community wellness through tree education, investment, and community engagement.
  • Children & Nature Network [exit DNR]
    Based on co-founder Richard Louv’s best-selling book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” this organization strives to increase equitable access to nature by “sharing evidence-based resources, scaling innovative solutions and driving policy change.”
  • ParkRx [exit DNR] 
    The Park Prescription movement supports health and social service providers who encourage their patients and clients to spend time in nature to improve their health and well-being.

What we do

In May 2019, the Wisconsin DNR Urban Forestry program hosted the first ever ‘Good Health Grows on Trees: The Influence of Nearby Nature on Public Health’ conference. With the goals of building relationships and sharing information across disciplines, the conference attracted a diverse group of 125 participants from the fields of public health, landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, and urban and community forestry. Keynote speaker Dr. Kathleen Wolf [exit DNR] joined us from the University of Washington-Seattle and was followed by insightful presentations from Wisconsin-based researchers. Attendees closed out the afternoon with an interactive session where they connected and collaborated with others from various professions and areas of the state.

Building on the momentum created by the conference, we continue to facilitate conversations between community forestry and public health, and to share knowledge and resources with researchers in the field, both locally and nationwide. Future events are in the works!

We are also developing a presentation on the health benefits of nearby nature that we will give to interested groups. Please contact Patricia Lindquist or Kim Sebastian if you would like to learn more about this presentation.