That makes the community element of the Green Heart Project critical, says Combs. More than 200 community groups exist in the South Louisville neighborhoods where the Green Heart Project will take place, and from churches to community centers to schools, she aims to work alongside them. Trees won’t survive, bringing their benefits to generations of Lousivillians, without local people to advocate for their care.
Neighborhoods where the Green Heart study will recruit participants lie South and East of Rubbertown, along the path of prevailing winds that carry pollution from Indiana and Illinois, as well as from local industry. Here, too, people don’t always connect the omnipresent health issues with air pollution or a lack of street trees.
Jennifer Nunn lives in Oakdale, one of the middle-class South Louisville neighborhoods within the project footprint. It’s always been home, a neighborhood full of families with deep roots in the community. But as the new community outreach coordinator for the Green Heart Project and the Institute, Nunn sees a substantial challenge ahead of her.
Like Cochran, Nunn will be working with people who love their neighborhood, but for whom tree planting may not be a top concern. They believe that Green Heart will succeed because health is universal—you don’t necessarily need to be an environmentalist to advocate for a cost-effective solution that could keep your kid's asthma in check.
“It’s like vaccination,” Combs explained. “Together, we can build a city that addresses the potential that people will get sick. You don’t want your neighborhood working against your diabetes medication.”
And providing people with the opportunity to join citizen science efforts that connect the dots between trees and heart disease can give them a role to play in making their block a better place for their families to live.
“We all want to see a safer, healthier neighborhood,” Nunn says. “One success will get people’s attention, then it will spread, it will grow.”