The relationship between trees and human health outcomes is a complex one. Yet research in recent decades has strengthened the case for expanding opportunities for urban residents to mitigate chronic health conditions through active experiences that feature trees, forests, and other natural settings.
The recent USDA-Forest Service publication, “Urban Nature for Human Health and Well-Being” (FS-1096, February 2018) summarizes that body of research, offering “a compelling case for maintaining and expanding nature-based outdoor environments in cities and bringing people closer to nature.” The report also offers a rationale for why policy and practice lags the positive research findings, and concludes: “The evidence of the link between nature, health, and preventive medicine will hopefully spur more direct collaboration between the health, urban planning, education, and natural resource communities.”
The Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) has a long history of incentivizing positive behavior among organizations with responsibility for community tree care practices, through its recognition programs: Tree City USA, Tree Campus USA, and Tree Line USA. The Foundation is launching a new recognition program for health care facilities to establish a connection between these facilities and the community forests that surround them, resulting in healthier employees, healthier citizens, and a healthier community forest.
Through the Tree Campus|Health Care recognition program, the Arbor Day Foundation—and its supporting partners—will connect inpatient health care facilities—of all sizes—to local community forestry programs in an effort to improve human health outcomes, while improving the extent and condition of the community forest. The program will provide an incentive to health care facilities to build and maintain lasting relationships with municipal and community organizations that plant and maintain the trees and forests of our cities and towns. Our vision is that health care providers, their patients, employees, and neighbors all enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, one that engages them in activities with trees and urban forests.