American cities that closed streets during the pandemic to give residents additional outdoor space for recreation have returned most of them to drivers.
Those reopenings are a missed opportunity to improve health if the prognosis from an ongoing experiment in urban redesign in Barcelona, Spain, is any indication.
POLITICO’s Helen Collis reports that Barcelona has seen promising results from a decade-old project to close large sections of three neighborhoods to traffic.
A survey of people living in the repurposed areas found they reported better rest, increased socialization and less perceived noise and air pollution. Residents also indicated areas that were quieter, more comfortable and safer, making it easier for them to interact with their neighbors.
Meanwhile, a study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health published in Environment International found that if Barcelona extends the project to additional areas, as it intends, it would spark major improvements in mental health. The institute expects it would reduce by more than 10 percent visits to mental health specialists and antidepressant use.
Those findings add to growing scientific evidence that access to nature helps prevent mental health disorders. Noise pollution from traffic has been linked to stresssleeplessness, anxiety and depression, while poor air quality is linked to mental health impactssuch as dementia and strokes.
Back in America: Stephan Schmidt, an associate professor at Cornell University’s City and Regional Planning Department, researched the Covid-era street closures and found 35 states took part.
But nearly all of the closures — 94 percent — lasted less than six months.
There were some significant exceptions:
—San Francisco voters last fall decided to keep the portion of JFK Drive that runs through Golden Gate Park car-free.
—Seattle continues to maintain some of the “Healthy Streets” it designated, including a picturesque stretch of Alki Ave. facing Elliott Bay.
— The National Park Service has agreed to keep Beach Drive in Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park — once a major commuting thoroughfare — closed to through traffic after residents protested a plan to reopen it.
This is where we explore the ideas and innovators shaping health care.
For $2,499, California-based Prenuvo will give you a full-body MRI and use artificial intelligence to evaluate what it finds, promising to detect cancer, brain aneurysms, fatty liver disease, pre-kidney stones and other ailments.
A doctor’s order is required, and the company says it’s identified thousands of serious health issues, but some are skeptical.
Share any thoughts, news, tips and feedback with Ben Leonard at [email protected]Ruth Reader at [email protected]Carmen Paun at [email protected] or Erin Schumaker at [email protected].
Send tips securely via SecureDrop, Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp.
Today on our PulseCheck podcasts, your host Ruth talks with Megan R. Wilson about the tensions at one of the nation’s leading trade organizations for generic drugmakers, which could threaten its lobbying clout at a crucial time for the industry.
The US is pushing back against developing countries that want the rich world to waive intellectual property protections for vaccines and medicines to distribute them more quickly during the next pandemic.
The debate is playing out in negotiations over the pandemic treaty among World Health Organization countries.
In draft text obtained by POLITICO’s Ashleigh Furlong, the US asked for the deletion of a paragraph that would see countries take measures to “support time-bound waivers of intellectual property rights” to speed up the manufacturing of pandemic products.
The US has also asked to edit language requiring manufacturers of pandemic-related products to transfer technology and know-how to other manufacturers.
In the US version, countries would only need to “intend to coordinate, collaborate, facilitate and incentivize manufacturers” to expand their geographic diversity through methods such as licensing agreements. This would all be on “voluntary and mutually agreed terms.”
What’s next: Countries hope to finalize the treaty by May 2024.