Trees save lives by improving health and wellbeing, but trees are not evenly distributed. Every community deserves equitable access to the benefits of trees – that’s tree equity.

The Tree Equity Score UK tool has been developed to help people across the UK identify neighbourhoods that can benefit most from increasing tree cover. The tool was created through a partnership between American Forests, the US non-profit organisation that created Tree Equity Score, the Woodland Trust and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.

What is the Tree Equity Score tool?

The Tree Equity Score tool for the UK uses new tree canopy datasets from Google, as well as six other datasets relating to climate, UK health and socioeconomics, to provide the most accurate picture of tree equity in the UK. It is a data-driven, evidence-based tool utilising pioneering methods developed by American Forests. It generates a score out of 100 for every urban neighbourhood in the UK, providing a rating of tree equity. The lower the score, the greater the need to prioritise tree canopy cover in that neighbourhood. A score of less than 100 means there is still work to be done. A score of 100 means the neighbourhood has met the standard for proper urban tree canopy and has achieved equity. However, even with a score of 100 trees still need to be maintained and cared for.

Watch this short video about how the Tree Equity Score came to the UK (5 minutes 18 seconds):

How does it support sustainable healthcare?

Trees have been consistently shown to have a positive impact on health and to reduce the need for healthcare interventions.

Trees are linked to:

Child having trouble breathing supported by adult
Fewer instances of respiratory disease due to improved air quality
Trees provide protection from summer heat
Fewer heat-related deaths thanks to the cooling effect of tree cover
Spending time near trees can improve mental health
improved mental health through a reduction in stress hormones

Having a view of trees has even been shown to reduce recovery time and the need for painkillers after an operation. The NHS and other UK healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to not only address low tree cover on their own land but also to advocate for equal access to the benefits of trees across the communities they serve. Furthermore, embracing the Tree Equity Score aligns with the NHS’s goal of tackling health inequalities and prevention set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. It will empower healthcare teams to prioritise areas that need increased tree cover to support a healthier, fairer society.

How can healthcare sites use this tool?

The tool is for everyone from individuals to large organisations and governments. At the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare we particularly want healthcare sites in the UK to embrace the tool.

Estates teams can use their site’s Tree Equity Score to prioritise tree planting in those areas in greatest need. This will support staff, patients, visitors and the local community to access the benefits that trees provide.

Patient groups, clinical and non-clinical staff and local communities can use the tool to highlight the need for trees on particular healthcare sites and ask Estates teams to consider tree-planting strategies for their sites.

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