Trees absorb carbon, soak up stormwater, and help clean the air. But planting trees is not only good for the environment.
Research shows trees and green space can also help prevent health problems. For example, they reduce the risk of heat-related illness by providing cooling and shade.
Bobby Cochran is with the Willamette Partnership, an environmental nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon.
“If we’ve got the science that shows that more trees equal better health, and we’re spending 18% of our gross domestic product on health … well, what if Medicaid could pay for trees?” he says. “And that’s actually not that crazy.”
Cochran says there’s a precedent for using healthcare dollars on preventative measures that can reduce health-care costs. For example, he says that to help minimize emergency room visits for heat-related illness, “we have the authority in Oregon for Medicaid to pay for air conditioners.”
He says paying to plant shade trees – which are proven to cool neighborhoods and homes – could be a logical next step.
So he says investing in trees and green space could be a way to protect people from extreme heat, reduce healthcare costs, and improve the environment – all at the same time.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/CBDM
Script author: Kennedy
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.