ideastream ‘Be Well’ Health Program Launches New ‘Tracking the Trees’ Series

For Immediate Release
Marissa Norris, Communications Coordinator
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ideastream ‘Be Well’ Health Program Launches New ‘Tracking the Trees’ Series
New multiple media programming explores connections between trees and human health

Aug. 22, 2016 (Cleveland) – The ideastream Be Well team is exploring its latest multiple media series, “Healthy People, Healthy Places: Tracking the Trees.” It will explore the relationship between trees and human health, with a focus on how trees impact the quality of the air and water, as well as land issues such as green space equity.

This special series continues through Sept. 30, with a series of Be Well reports airing during the following programs:

  • Morning Edition each Tuesday morning on 90.3 WCPN, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m.
  • Ideas, which airs Fridays at 7:30 p.m. (formerly 8:30 p.m.) on WVIZ/PBS and Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on The Ohio Channel.
  • The Sound of Ideas, which airs at 9 a.m. weekdays on 90.3 and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays on The Ohio Channel.

Across the country, scientists with the U.S. Forest Service continue to study and document relationships between trees and human health. A study published in 2014 in the journal Environmental Pollution found that in 2010, trees across the country removed over 17 million tons of air pollution and averted close to $7 billion in healthcare costs. But data shows urban tree cover is on the decline, nationally and throughout Northeast Ohio. While advocacy organizations set a benchmark of healthy tree canopy in urban areas at 40 percent, Cleveland’s currently stands at just 19 percent. The Be Well team reports on the impact of tree loss and what it means to local residents and communities throughout the region.

Some of the topics to be covered include:

  • Tree History & Significance
  • Trees and the Black River Cleanup
  • Trees and Stormwater Runoff
  • Trees and Upper Respiratory Diseases
  • The Emerald Ash Borer and Human Health
  • Green Space Equity
  • Psychological & Cognitive Benefits of Trees

Complete topic descriptions are available at the end of this release.

Tracking the Trees is part of the continuing Be Well series Healthy People, Healthy Places, covering the intersection of people, place, and health. All Tracking the Trees segments will be available online at

Be Well is an ongoing multiple media health information series presented by ideastream that covers health-related topics that affect our community. 


Funding for Be Well comes from The Dr. Donald J. Goodman and Ruth Weber Goodman Philanthropic Fund of The Cleveland Foundation, The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, The Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, The McGregor Foundation, The Dominion Foundation, The Saint Luke’s Foundation and The Community Foundation of Lorain County.


The mission of ideastream is to strengthen our communities. ideastream pursues this mission as a multiple media public service organization by providing distinctive, thought-provoking programs and services that enlighten, inspire, educate and entertain.


Be Well - Healthy People, Healthy Places: Tracking the Trees
Topic Descriptions

Tree History & Significance

Part of the series covers the disappearance of tree canopy in Northeast Ohio, including a look back at how and why Cleveland was once known as the “Forest City.” It includes a trip to the archives of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to examine records about the status of the 150 trees that were counted in the 1946 Moses Cleaveland tree census, which tracked Northeast Ohio trees alive in 1796.  

Trees and the Black River Cleanup

The Be Well team takes a kayak ride down the Black River in Lorain. The City of Lorain received a $15 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of a massive restoration effort targeting the Great Lakes. Audiences will learn about the role trees are playing in the cleanup of the Black River. The team also visits a virgin forest owned by the CMNH that runs along the Grand River to understand how trees help clean the water that flows into local streams and rivers.

Trees and Stormwater Runoff

Audiences will explore the role trees can play in helping to address the dangerous bacteria counts that sometimes make Lake Erie unsafe for swimming after heavy storms. The problem stems from combined sanitary and storm water systems that overflow after heavy rain and carry raw sewage into the Lake. The Be Well team explains how trees can act as giant umbrellas to help mitigate overflow. Urban forestry advocates say “gray” solutions—which call for pouring more concrete to update sewer systems and water treatment plants—should be balanced with “green” infrastructure solutions that use trees to help keep Lake Erie’s water clean naturally.

Trees and Upper Respiratory Diseases

According to a 2016 report compiled by the American Thoracic Society and New York University, Cleveland ranks ninth worst in the nation when it comes to air pollution-related deaths and serious illnesses. Audiences will discover the roles trees play in cleaning the air, as well as the impact air pollution and high temperatures brought on by lack of tree shade can have on people with asthma and other lung diseases. To discuss this in more detail, the Be Well team interviews Dr. Sumita Khatri, co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Asthma Center.

The Emerald Ash Borer and Human Health

A 2013 study documented an association between human health problems and the emerald ash borer, the invasive beetle from Asia responsible for wiping out tens of millions of ash trees throughout the country. The study found that across 15 states, including Ohio, the borer was associated with an additional 6,113 deaths related to lower respiratory illness and 15,080 cardiovascular-related deaths. The Be Well team joins Chris Perry, urban forester for the City of Lakewood, as he explains how the borer killed hundreds of ash trees lining Lakewood streets and how that same 2013 study prompted him to become a local tree detective tracking down more evidence linking low tree-canopy coverage to health outcomes in Northeast Ohio.

Green Space Equity

The Be Well team examines the push to use research about human health benefits of trees to advance public policy to promote green space equity. One local example includes the Health Impact Assessment performed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, in partnership with researchers at Kent State University, to assist with the development of the Eastside Greenway project. Additionally, the team takes a trip to “tree school” in the Kinsman neighborhood—a training program run by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Holden Arboretum to teach local residents how to plant and care for trees.  

Psychological & Cognitive Benefits of Trees

Audiences will be introduced to the role trees may play in helping people deal with stress, as well as the role exposure to nature may have in improving the cognitive function of those with attention deficits.

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