LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Green Heart Louisville is a unique, first of its kind study to rigorously and scientifically assess the impact of green space on air quality and health in urban communities.

“There is this idea that we are a species that grew up around plants and animals,” said Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar from the University of Louisville. “There is the idea that we have an intrinsic affinity for other living things.”

The Green Heart Project will examine if increasing greenness in an urban community will reduce the levels of air pollution in the neighborhood, decrease the risk of heart disease, and increase outdoor activity and relationship between neighbors.

“Even though it is happening in Louisville, we think this is a national collaboration and a one of a kind experiment,” said Dr. Bhatnagar.

Green Heart is a collaborative project at the University of Louisville’s Envirome Institute in partnership with Louisville Metro Government, Washington University in St. Louis, US Forest Service, Cornell University, and Hyphae Design Lab with funding from the Nature Conservancy and the National Institutes for Health.

Researchers evaluated existing tree cover, major roadways, population density, plant-able space, and neighborhood characteristics for all the neighborhoods in Louisville.

They chose a three-square mile area in South Louisville encompassing six communities, Oakdale-Wyandotte, Wilder Park, Taylor-Berry, Beechmont, and Hazelwood.

The five year plan for the study consists of baseline measurements in 2018 and 2019. Then, they'll plant thousands of trees in 2019 and 2020. Finally, they'll return to a monitoring period to gather data to contrast the numbers from the original findings.