Let’s keep our community healthy and growing by planting more trees!
The urban forest is increasingly being recognized for its benefits to public health and wellbeing. As a result, more and more towns and communities are including green spaces in their community health policies and promoting trees in their push-for-progress agendas.
The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) credits partnerships between medical professionals and tree experts for making headway on today’s global health-challenges, including obesity, heart disease and nutrition.
“Research shows that the presence of trees in a community can encourage people to be more physically active in addition to affecting their attitudes and behaviors,” says Jim Skiera, Executive Director of ISA. “We are just beginning to establish relationships between public health experts and urban forestry, but we know much more about the positive link between health and nature than we did 10 years ago, so there has been tremendous progress.“
Currently, tree experts are working with the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for improving human access to green space in urban areas. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals also include making more green space available, especially for young people and the elderly.
“In Canada, urban foresters have been part of a policy to fight skin cancer and in Sweden, a regional government has partnered with a university to treat people with burnout in therapeutic gardens,” says Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk, a noted expert on urban forestry and urban greening in the department of landscape architecture, planning and management at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. “A colleague of mine in the Netherlands has partnered with a health insurance company for a program to take people out on nature walks to help alleviate stress.”
Among the ways trees improve public health:
• 100 trees remove 53 tons of carbon dioxide and 430 pounds of other air pollutants from the environment each year. (Courtesy: USDA)
• Neighborhoods with trees experience fewer incidents of domestic violence and are safer and more sociable. (Courtesy: USDA)
• People who use public parks and open spaces are three times more likely to reach recommended levels of physical activity than those who don’t participate. (Courtesy: NIH)
Dr. Konijnendijk adds, “When asked how they feel after spending time in green spaces, volunteering for tree work or in a community garden, people are consistently telling us that they are in better health and less stressed compared to the time before they engaged in these activities.”
As the pressures of urbanization increase, we need to place a far greater value on the urban forest. Understanding the benefits of trees will empower our front line leaders with healthy beneficial knowledge that allows the embracing of progress and expansion in the community without the removal of existing trees.
For more information on the health benefits of trees, visit www.treesaregood.org.
Seminole County’s BetterWay Initiative and its Phase One patrons got the progress ball rolling with the planting of 32 trees in downtown Donalsonville. The initiative’s Phase Two goals and objectives will be announced in the upcoming weeks, and based on the information above, the continued greening of our community should be on the project list.
Let’s work together to keep our community healthy and growing. Let’s plant more trees!
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