Translating Urban and Community Forestry Human Health Evidence to Integrated Urban Planning and Policy

Urban and community forests are important to communities in many ways; they are natural systems that provide for the health and wellbeing of any community. A multitude of studies in forestry, health policy, planning and engineering disciplines support positive human health outcomes related to green space exposure. Yet, political and civic support for the urban forest, including budgeting and funding is critically needed to create resilient forests that generate multiple benefits. Local leaders and the general public need help developing a better understanding of the importance of the trees that surround them. If a community values trees as a resource, then protection and stewardship follows. Engaged planning, protection, stewardship, and thus resilience of urban forests depends on people understanding and valuing the forest as a resource. 

Translate evidence to best practices – our project. While more research can always further improve the knowledge base, we now have enough information to translate the research about human health to best practices that promote forest and community resilience. Public health policy recognizes that the social determinants of health include environmental factors (both built environment and natural environment) and that human health should be considered in policy making decisions across multiple sectors (e.g. a “Health in All Policies” approach). However, urban forestry professional practices and associated urban planning and policy guidelines have not been integrated; there are major gaps across these important disciplines.

Addressing multiple important U&CF goals. This project for the US Forest Service urban and community forest (U&CF) resilience aligns with multiple goals in the National Ten Year Urban and Community Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026). This project will strengthen urban forest resilience by: operationalizing urban forest and health research to best practices and linking this translation to the emerging urban planning initiatives focused on public health policies. The work will help promote the importance of planning and managing the forest for human health benefits especially in high potential communities.

UMD EFC and project partners Dr. Kathy Wolf of University of Washington and Dr. Sagar Shah, AICP of the American Planning association will work for the next few years with an advisory group comprised of public health, forestry, and planning professionals. The project outcome is a resource guide for planning and public health communities to integrate health and green infrastructure into municipal planning.

Partners

University of Washington        APA

Sponsors

USDA Forest Service

Team Members

Program / Center Affiliation