Green Infrastructure and Health Guide

The Green Infrastructure and Health Guide was designed to help local governments, communities, and health care organizations connect green infrastructure (GI) and public health in new ways to promote better health equity and adapt to climate change. This report provides general GI principles and best practices as well as tools, resources, and evidence for connections between green infrastructure and human health. The Willamette Partnership and the Oregon Public Health Institute developed this guide in collaboration with the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange practitioner network.

The guide addresses the health benefits of GI for reducing climate impacts, especially heat and air pollution exposure. Some examples of related GI siting and design guidelines include to:

  • Prioritize tree planting in areas with a high percentage of impervious surfaces (e.g., streets, parking lots and rooftops) but little tree canopy
  • Prioritize shade-producing installations at south- and west-facing fronts of multi-family and other residential buildings (especially in areas with sensitive populations such as the elderly the older adults or children)
  • Look to green/living roofs and green walls to mitigate extreme heat exposure and cool buildings
  • Prioritize filtering vegetation in postal codes/blocks with high air pollution exposure
  • Select tree species that emit lower concentrations of volatile organic compounds, are better at filtering air pollutants (e.g., evergreens if air pollution exposure is highest in winter), and are more resilient to air pollution

The guide is organized into sections providing:

  • A summary of evidence linking time spent in green spaces with health improvements
  • Definitions and a discussion of key terms used in healthcare and green infrastructure
  • Methods to identify community health needs in relation to green infrastructure
  • Talking points to make the case for GI and health to different audiences
  • Methods for community engagement as a critical tool for advancing health equity
  • Siting and design guidelines for green infrastructure as it relates to health
  • Steps to collect data and evaluate health benefits of green infrastructure

With a strong focus on health equity, this guide recognizes that, “Promoting health means addressing structural inequity, which includes how and where green infrastructure is located and designed.” The guide encourages community engagement as an important tool for ensuring that green infrastructure benefits communities that are in need of the most health improvements. 


Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Bobby Cochran
  • Barton Robison
  • Emily Henke

Related Organizations:

  • Willamette Partnership
  • Oregon Public Health Institute


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice


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