WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ming Kuo, an environmental psychologist at University of Illinois, was recognized by the Heinz Family Foundation for her extraordinary achievements in the environment. Some of Kuo’s research was financed in part by grant funding from the USDA Forest Service National Urban and Community Forestry program. One of Kuo’s first agency-funded projects examined the role of greenery on crime and aggression in urban settings.
In the 1990s, Kuo and Dr. Bill Sullivan, co-founders of the Human-Environment Research Lab, studied public housing areas both with and without greenery. The research results showed that residents in buildings close to parks and other green space had lower rates of aggression and violence. A comparison of police reports for the buildings showed that increased greenery also correlated with lower crime rates, suggesting that planting even a few trees in otherwise barren urban areas could help to create safer neighborhoods. This success led to the award of two more UCF grants, which funded additional research showing the positive healing power of urban and community forests on children with ADHD and how exposure to greenness around schools correlated to better test scores. She is using her most recent UCF grant to quantify the mental and physical benefits of community green space to reduced health care expenditures.
Created in memory of the late Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of the senator by recognizing the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him: arts and humanities, environment, human condition, public policy, technology, the economy and employment.