Trees for Climate and Health

We all need and want green space where we live and work, walk and play. Increasingly, research shows the benefits of trees for our health but research also shows that some neighborhoods have less access to green space and fewer trees in their neighborhoods. These neighborhoods can be identified on maps or by walking along treeless streets, often adjacent to (or divided by) highways or industrial areas. And they share other demographic similarities: low income, high number of renters, higher rates of respiratory problems and other chronic diseases, and exposure to heat extremes. These are costly, not only to the individuals who live under these conditions, but also to the community as a whole.

What is happening in Rhode Island:

yellow and green squares in a pattern

American Forest’s Tree Equity Score Analyzer for Rhode Island provides a score (on a scale of 0-100) for entire municipalities, down to local neighborhoods. Scores are based on how much tree canopy cover and surface temperature align with income, employment race age and health factors. Prioritize areas, justify choices and show quantifiable change which can be used to communicate the benefits to community resident, policy-makers and funders.

map of rhode island with providence and surrounding cities highlighted

In 2020, DEM Division of Forest Environment partnered with the RI Department of Health to carry out a Capa Strategies Heat Watch campaign, monitoring temperatures through the course of the day in Providence, East Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls.

 We have used the data to explore some of the sources and impacts of extreme heat in Rhode Island:

blue and green squares with images of houses, people, buses and more

RI Department of Health has identified nine Health Equity Zones (HEZ) as a way to prioritize and address the inequities that affect multiple communities across the state. Rhode Island is the first in the nation to adopt this approach of sustainable investments with flexible funding at the statewide level.

In 2021, American Forests awarded a $100,000 Tree Planting for Climate Resilience and Human Health grant to the Pawtucket and Central Falls HEZ to expand tree cover in low canopy neighborhoods.


Climate change is an issue that can seem overwhelming. And the effects of climate change on the environment, human health, and quality of life are complex and intertwined. Below are resources and information that address climate change on the local, state and national level: