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Director's ChoiceTree Canopy Cover and Perceived Park Access Have Benefits for Cardiovascular Health

Drone view of Philadelphia skyline.

Could a nature-based solution help address cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States? To find out, a Northern Research Station scientist and her partners completed one of the first studies that examined the associations between perceived and objective residential greenness measures and cardiovascular disease across neighborhood sociodemographic groups.

In Philadelphia, the sixth largest and one of the poorest cities in the nation, a Northern Research Station scientist was part of a team that analyzed relationships among percentage vegetation cover, percentage tree canopy cover, overall greenness density, and perceived park and outdoor space access with three cardiovascular risk factors: percentage of adult residents with obesity, with a diagnosis of high blood pressure/hypertension, or diabetes. Findings suggest that tree canopy cover and perceived park or outdoor space access are associated with improved cardiovascular health of urban area residents.

Urban greening strategies that increase the amount of green in an area, and particularly those that aim to make it more accessible, safe, inclusive, and useable, may provide additional health benefits. Results of the study also suggest that any cardiovascular protective effects of greenery may be heterogeneous and vary between sociodemographic groups. For land managers, choosing the best option between increasing the amount of green or facilitating access to the existing one might depend on the social context.


Publications and Resources

External Partners

  • Pablo Knobel, Universitat Aut`onoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  • Roser Maneja, Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia, Lleida, Spain
  • Yuzhe Zhao, Drexel University Urban Health Collaborative
  • Payam Dadvand, ISIGlobal, Barcelona, Spain