LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 2, 2018) — The University of Louisville has received a $2 million grant from The Nature Conservancy in support of Green Heart Louisville, a first-of-its-kind scientific study into the potential human health benefits of urban greening. Green Heart Louisville is one of the flagship studies of the Center for Healthy Air, Water, and Soil, based at the university’s new Envirome Institute. The Institute’s director, Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, serves as the study’s principal investigator.
The grant from The Nature Conservancy supports some initial air quality monitoring work as well as an initial investment in the neighborhood greening. It complements funding UofL received from National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for the human health study portion of the five-year project, during which health information will be gathered from 700 study participants. The grant also provides a clear process for how The Nature Conservancy and the University of Louisville will work together on this effort, including planting thousands of trees in the South Louisville study area.
“We are proud and excited to partner with the University of Louisville and many other entities on the Green Heart project,” said David Phemister, The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky state director. “We know that nature is essential for our lives, but the empirical evidence of its benefits for our health is not as robust as one might expect. This project, especially with Dr. Bhatnagar’s deep experience and knowledge of environmental intersections with human health, provides an incredible opportunity to gain that evidence and create a platform for positive change in Louisville and beyond.”
“All of us at the University of Louisville are grateful of the generosity of The Nature Conservancy,” said Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, president of UofL. “How the environment impacts our health continues to be an area ripe for study, with very practical recommendations for improvement coming forward. The public/private collaboration that UofL is fostering with The Nature Conservancy and others reflects the importance of the work being conducted by Dr. Bhatnagar and his team. It truly has the potential to change things globally.”
Green Heart Louisville enables the city to serve as a living, urban laboratory, where residents can have a role in creating healthier neighborhoods and the Institute’s research can help create a healthier future here and across the globe. The research of Bhatnagar and his colleagues has pioneered the field of environmental cardiology and begun to uncover the important influence of the environment on heart disease. With Green Heart Louisville, the Institute and its partners will expand upon this knowledge. The Nature Conservancy’s presence in 72 countries around the world brings the potential for this research to be replicated in cities across the globe.
“For years, researchers have recognized that there is a nexus between the environment and a person’s health,” Bhatnagar said. “It is our intention to finally begin to quantify on a macro level some of these impacts and to demonstrate possible solutions that can be implemented not only here in Louisville, but in other cities throughout the world. I am extremely grateful to The Nature Conservancy for its generous support and essential partnership as we explore the links between a healthy environment and people’s health and well-being.”
“This grant is a serious demonstration of leadership and the understanding that Louisville — our “Urban Laboratory”— is ready to make decisions through the lens of health,” said Christina Lee Brown, with the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, which provided $5 million to the institute earlier this year. “Our newly formed Envirome Institute and its new Center for Healthy Air Water and Soil will deliver science-based solutions that demonstrate the importance of improving the health of our community with the help of our community”
This Envirome Institute serves as a unifying capstone organization over several existing UofL centers, including the Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil, the Diabetes and Obesity Center, the Superfund Research Center and the Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center. Together these centers have successfully attracted more than $100 million in extramural funds over the past decade. This funding includes a new $3 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for the Green Heart project.