Hyphae Design Laboratory is working with the University of Louisville’s Envirome Institute, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), National Institute of Health (NIH), Washington University, and other partners on a multi-year study to determine if dramatically increasing vegetation through the planting of thousands of trees in the South Louisville study area positively impacts the resident’s cardiovascular health.
Existing research—including a pilot study in Louisville—supports a link between urban greening and health outcomes. However, the Green Heart Project is the first controlled experiment to test urban greening in the same way a new pharmaceutical intervention is tested. The focal point of the project is a five-year health study. First the research team will assess the risk of diabetes and heart disease, stress levels, and the strength of social ties in 700 participants from the neighborhood. The team will take baseline measurements of air pollution levels at the same time.
The project team is considering parts of several neighborhoods of South Louisville. Over a two year timeframe, the team is working with community members, agencies and non-profit organizations to collaboratively design and plant thousands of trees, grasses, vines and shrubs (many of them mature specimens) throughout the community to enhance the urban ecosystem, promote physical activity while decreasing stress and physically buffering and filtering air pollution. Over the following three years, roughly 700 participants, (enough for the research to be significant) will receive annual check-ups to evaluate how the increasing greenery has affected their physical and mental health, and their social ties.