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Amanda Merck

Merck completed her MPH with a concentration in Physical Activity and Health. She curates content for Salud America! (@SaludAmerica), a Latino childhood obesity prevention project based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. She focuses on the latest research, resources, and stories related to policy, systems, and environmental changes to enhance equitable access to safe places for kids and families to walk, bike, and play.


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Articles by Amanda Merck

Newborn Screening Resources in Spanish



Almost 23% of the 3.99 million babies born in 2015 were Hispanic. Early diagnosis of certain conditions can make the difference between healthy development and lifelong physical or mental disability for these babies. Newborn Screening In 1963, Newborn Screening begins with a heel stick. Screenings identify babies who may have a variety of genetic, metabolic, hormonal and functional conditions so that precise follow-up testing can be performed. Since 1963, babies with serious but treatable conditions caught by Newborn Screening grow up healthy with expected development. All it takes is a few drops of blood and a simple hearing test. However, Newborn Screening is an evolving system that varies across the country, thus many parents don’t know of the conditions included in ...

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Latino Group, U.S. Army Team Up to Promote STEM among High Schoolers



The science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce is no more diverse than it was 20 years ago. In fact, less than 2% of the STEM workforce is Latino youth, although they make up about 20% of the population, according to a factsheet by the U.S. Department of Education. Vacant STEM jobs and gaps in this growing career field mean gaps in income, health, and quality of life. It also means Americans lag behind in: advancing alternative energy source curing diseases predicting natural disasters preventing cybercrime protecting our citizens securing sustainable food supply In order to promote STEM careers among Latino youth, we need to improve STEM programming beginning as early as preschool, promote STEM programs for Latinos, and boost high school ...

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Webinar: Walking Toward Justice



Housing segregation caused many social justice issues throughout the 1900s. One big one is neighborhood walkability. You are invited to join America Walks’ quarterly webinar series, Walking Toward Justice, to examine past and present walkability issues in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, and search for solutions. Charles T. Brown of America Walks, who helped create the series, will moderate each webinar. The first webinar on 9/27/17 Register here for the first webinar of the series, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Government Segregated America, at 2 p.m. EST Sept, 27, 2017. The webinar will feature author Richard Rothstein. Rothstein’s book debunks myths about racial discrimination. It also provides evidence of how governments prevented ...

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Largest Urban Natural Area in Texas Gets Natural Playscape and Discovery Trail



Texas State Parks are opening new natural play areas for children and people with disabilities to play and connect with nature. Latino kids in Texas (39.1% Latino), and across the country, lack safe outdoor places to play and be active, which is known as a nature deficit disorder. Families struggle to find green space that is both fun and appropriate for all age ranges. Particularly Latino families, which are often multigenerational. Childhood development leaders, architects, educators and urban planners worked together to design plans for natural playscapes in various outdoor spaces, like state parks, local parks, zoos, and botanical gardens to better engage kids and families with nature. Natural playscapes are designed to be built using natural materials and include boulders, ...

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Fresno Community Blue and Green Spaces Program Opens School Pools


Latino Health pools blue space swimming

Schools in Fresno, CA (52.8% Latino) opened their green and blue spaces to the public. Green spaces are parks, playgrounds, sports fields and other outdoor play spaces. Blue spaces are swimming pools, lakes and rivers. Latino kids lack safe green and blue spaces, thus face higher rates of chronic disease, drowning, and drowning related injuries compared to white kids. In June 2016, the Fresno Parks, After School, Recreation, and Community Services Department (PARCS) started a new Weekend Recreation and Fitness Program (WRFP) to get help kids and families stay more active. With a $1.2 million dollar budget from the City of Fresno, Fresno Unified School District, and Central Unified School District, they opened school facilities, like playgrounds, sports fields and green space, ...

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Mississippi Governor Urges Training Day Care Workers to Improve Early Education



The first few years are critical for preparing kids for life, yet early childcare employees are the least prepared. They often only have a high school degree, thus aren’t equipped to give kids the care and services they need during their formative years. Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant, told residents at the Neshoba County Fair in July 2017 that he plans to improve early childhood education across the state by training day care workers. He hopes to use federal and state funds to provide training through the state’s 15 community colleges, at no cost to the workers, according to one source. According to Governor Bryant’s Twitter account, “Our community colleges are now educating our childcare workers on early childhood education best practices. Our children deserve the ...

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Health Workers Start Mega Baby Showers for Moms in Need



Kori Eberle calls early and steady prenatal care the “best gift a baby can receive” for healthy early childhood development. That’s why Eberle coordinates home visits, screenings, and parenting and health education for vulnerable women from pregnancy to their baby’s second birthday as part of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) Healthy Start program in San Antonio (63.2% Latino population). Eberle and Metro Health’s Healthy Start program want most of all to reduce disparities in the local infant death rate, which is higher for low-income, Latino, and African American families. Sadly, Eberle found that not enough moms-to-be know about their resources or get the help they need to ensure a healthy delivery and proper early brain ...

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An Analysis of Child Care Deserts by Zip Code in 8 States


Latino health early childhood development

Although research has shown the many health, social and emotional, and cognitive benefits of quality early child care and education, Latinos have the lowest participation in these programs. Why? Child care deserts may be the answer. Although affordability, work schedules, and waiting lists are also factors, location is often the first major consideration for families. Center for American Progress looked into the location of child care centers across eight states, which accounts for 20% of the population under age five. The authors define child care desert as a ZIP code with at least 30 children under the age of five and either no child care centers so few centers that there are more than three times as many children under age 5 as there are spaces in centers. See ...

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Streetsblog’s Sorriest Bus Stop Competition


Latino health safe routes equity

Two critical parts of every bus trip are the walk there and the walk back. Sadly, many streets are designed for cars, not families, making for some very sorry bus stops. Safe routes and safe bus stops are critical for people to access basic necessities, like schools, work, grocery stores, parks, healthcare, and other cultural and historical community resources. Streetsblog USA is calling attention to sorry bus stops during their 2017 Sorriest Bus Stop in America tournament. The goal is to motivate action from the streets and transit agencies who are responsible for designing and constructing the bus stops. You can enter the competition by submitting a photo of the sorriest bus stop with the exact location (preferably tagged in Google Maps) and a short description of what ...

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Head Start Partners with Technical and Community College


Latino health early childhood education

Latino children may have education disadvantages when starting kindergarten. Head Start, which is free for low-income families, may help to improve school readiness with curriculum to enhance children's language, pre-literacy, and social-emotional skills. In 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services Head Start passed new performance standards increasing the minimum program hours. This is great for kids and families, but a challenge for providers due to limited space. In Alexandrian, Minnesota, half-day classes could share the same facility, one in the morning and a second in the afternoon, but didn't have the space to offer full day programming for both classes. They needed more space. Jim Haugen, Head Start Supervisor approached Alexandria Technical and Community ...

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