New National Guide on Increasing Green Infrastructure to Improve Public Health

New National Guide on Increasing Green Infrastructure to Improve Public Health

By Bobby Cochran


Today Willamette Partnership and Oregon Public Health Institute released the “Green Infrastructure and Health Guide.” The guide was built for the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange to help local government, communities, and health care organizations connect green infrastructure and public health in new ways.

Water utilities dealing with drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater have public health in their missions. In the mid-19th century, public sanitation improvements increased life expectancy from 35 to 80 years by bringing clean water to people’s homes and reducing communicable disease, such as cholera. Now, chronic conditions (such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, and depression) are the most prevalent health issues in the United States, Canada, and other nations, and preventing them is the public health challenge of our time. Green infrastructure can be part of the solution, but improving public health is hard work. It means being intentional about engaging community, locating sites for green infrastructure, and selecting designs that improve physical activity, mental health, social cohesion, air quality, and other health factors.

Download the Green Infrastructure & Health Guide


The new guide includes information such as:

  • a summary of evidence linking time in green spaces to improved health;
  • a primer on key terms used in health care and green infrastructure;
  • a method to identify community health needs relative to green infrastructure;
  • community engagement as a health intervention;
  • green infrastructure siting and design guidelines; and
  • evaluation steps.

The guide is already helping Seattle Public Utilities look at how green infrastructure designed for public health improvements can be incorporated into new, $20 million drainage investments.  Brent Robinson, one of Seattle Public Utilities’ capital projects engineers, had this to say about the guide:

brent robinson, seattle public utilities

Brent Robinson

“I have struggled to get behind GSI [Green Stormwater Infrastructure]. From my vantage point, I haven’t seen much data, and I’ve ended up questioning GSI’s role as a core utility function. However, this document makes a really compelling, data-based argument for GSI, which resonates with me. If one can accept the argument that at the core of what Seattle Public Utilities does is protect the health of the public, then the case for GSI (which can mean many green-related approaches) becomes simple to make. Public health is a larger umbrella than flow control and water quality constituents. Green space, tree cover, nature, air quality, etc., are all part of the mix of things that lead to successful public health outcomes. In this regard, GSI does very much have a role in our core work since we serve to protect the health of the public.”

Join Willamette Partnership and Oregon Public Health on July 27, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PST for a free webinar hosted by the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange to dive more into the “Green Infrastructure and Health Guide” and how cities can use green infrastructure to improve health.

Ready right now to take action? Download the guide at here, or contact either Willamette Partnership ( or Oregon Public Health Institute ( to see how our technical assistance might help you build partnerships between green infrastructure, community, and health care.


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