In the list of healthiest and least healthiest states releases from Forbes this month the southern region of the country is once again lagging behind. All in all eight of the bottom 10 were states from the south, including Tennessee which ranked number 44 overall and number 49 in obesity.
Why does this relate to green infrastructure you might ask? There are in fact many ways to relate green infrastructure to our health. (Check out the numbers from the earlier post ‘Triple Bottom Line of Green Infrastructure) Some are the obvious reasons such as cleaner streams and rivers, cleaner air, etc, that often create a more desirable environment to become engaged in and interact both physically and socially. But take a step back and consider green infrastructure planning; in brief planning amongst, preserving and restoring our natural infrastructure systems, such as river corridors, woodland networks and open spaces. This type of planning allows us to integrate greenway trails, bikeways and neighborhood trails into our built environment in a responsible way. The more access communities have to resources such as these allows them more opportunities to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day, increasing the overall heath of the community. There is a strong link between lack of physical activity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Other more indirect regional health benefits stem from increasing the amount of land for natural storm water retention which in turns allows communities to become more resistant to natural disasters. Green infrastructure also can reduce the erosion of precious top soil, which aids local farms. The entire region benefits when a collection of local farms can provide healthy food. Working farms—and forests—also have a significant impact on local economies by providing jobs, aiding tourism and supporting local manufacturing.
So in the end, green infrastructure benefits extend beyond immediate storm water benefits and reducing our carbon footprint. By integrating the green infrastructure planning principles we can also provide opportunities to make our communities healthier, reduce overall healthcare costs and hopefully move Tennessee up in the ranks of healthiest states.