A Research Project in Louisville is Spending $14.5 Million to Plant 8,000 Trees in Hopes of Improving Cardiovascular Health
Healthcare doesn’t grow on trees — except perhaps in Louisville, where a $14.5 millionresearch project is testing out that very theory on its residents.
The Green Heart project is an initiative lead by a number of institutions, including University of Louisville, The Nature Conservancy, and The Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil that aims to test the correlation between cardiovascular health and nature. The initiative was originally dreamt up by Aruni Bhatnagar, a medical professor at the University of Louisville, who firmly believes air pollution can lead to cardiovascular risks, and that trees could end up replacing lipid-lowering medications in the future.
The team behind this five-year collaboration hopes to prove definitively through data collection that living within a lush green landscape can improve one’s cardiovascular health.
“The project is essentially a controlled trial at neighborhood scale,” says Ted Smith, co-founder of The Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil. “We’re talking 20,000 residents across Louisville.” In this study, half the residents of numerous Louisville neighborhoods will begin living amongst 8,000 new bushes and native Kentucky trees — an aggressive greening plan that should eliminate air pollution.
Over the next four years, residents living in greened areas will periodically receive checkups to measure any possible improvements in health.
“This will be the first definitive data of causality on green and health,” continues Smith, “only correlational studies have been done in the past. It’s a real significant problem for nature lovers — planting trees for the sake of health doesn’t run on any empirical evidence.”
The key end points in this initiative are to test the effects of “aggressive greening” on cardiovascular risk indicators, social cohesion, and safety.
“This is not a small project, this is not a quick project, and it might not work,” says Smith, “but it’s an important project.”
While we won’t know the results for quite a few years, it’s exciting to think that the key to heart health could lie in the soil.
“A research project in Louisville is spending $14.5 million to plant 8,000 trees in hopes of improving cardiovascular health” by:JEREMY GLASS