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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

How I Walk: A Campaign to Rebrand the Word Walking


Latino health disability inclusive

Walking is critical for accessibility. One-third of all American are not able to drive, either because they are too old, too young, too poor, or have some form of disability. People with disabilities are the only minority group you don't have to be born into. Meaning, at any time, any one of us could become part of this group due to injury or illness. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) was founded in 1999 as a resource center on health promotion for people with disability. They launched a campaign in 2015 to rebrand the word walking. Walking is particularly important for the elderly, people with disability, and lower-income people who have fewer opportunities to participate in sports of formal exercise programs.  The How I Walk ...

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San Antonio Schools Open Their Gyms For Summer Pilot Program


Latino Health Open Use Gym

Twelve middle schools in the San Antonio Independent School District are opening the doors to their gym four days a week as a pilot program to help keep students active over the summer. Creating opportunities for kid's to remain active over the summer is critical to build a culture of health and reduce their risk for obesity and chronic disease. Particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods which lack safe places for kids to play. The Athletic Conditioning & Enrichement (ACE) pilot program was developed by the district's assistant athletic director, Courtney Davis. For two hours a day, coaches teach middle school students about muscle strength, injury prevention, and nutrition. In collaboration with district's summer meals program, students receive two meals a day, before ...

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Detroit Partnership Combines Literacy & Swimming for Kids


Latino Health Swimming Pools

Since 2010, Detroit Swims has taught more than 5800 kids how to swim and aims to teach all kids in the Metro Detroit. Swimming is excellent for mental and physical health, as well as academic achievement, but of f the 120,000 children in the city, it’s estimated 100,000 of them can’t swim, according to one source. Detroit Swims is a nonprofit started by lifeguards in 2010 at the Boll Family YMCA to reduce disparities in swim ability.  The lifeguards contributed $2000 out of their paycheck to teach the first 35 kids how to swim. Latino kids across the country often lack access to pools and swimming lessons, thus face higher rates of drowning and obesity related chronic disease compared to white kids. Detroit Swims has expanded to over six locations, and works with local ...

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NRPA/Disney Play Spaces Grant Application


Latino Health physical activity

Thanks to a grant from Disney, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is expanding the Meet Me at the Park program and providing additional communities with increased access to play spaces in local parks.  Meet Me at the Park brings the magic of parks and recreation to children and families across the United States. Applicants must: Be a local or state government park and recreation agency, (e.g., municipal park and recreation department, tribal recreation department, park district, etc.) Provide opportunities for community engagement and volunteerism in association with the project. Promote the project locally through its own communication channels and on social media. Administer surveys and collect data from at least 25 people at the project site once ...

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VIDEO: A Tale of Two Zip Codes



"When it comes to predicting how long you will live, your zip code is more important than your genetic code," George Takei narrates in A Tale of Two Zip Codes, an animated short film by the California Endowment's 10-year Building Healthy Communities initiative. Where you live determines your opportunities, thus your health and life expectancy. Consider not having healthy food options, clean air, safe sidewalks, nearby parks, quality schools, public transportation and preventive health care-the root causes lie in racial and economic discrimination. Struggling so much to find healthy options can be an overwhelming source of chronic stress, which is a serious health risk factor. If we are all going to be healthier, we need to look at inequality. Countries with the ...

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500 Cities Project: Local Data for Better Health


500-cities-logo-682x350

How can you use data to improve health in your area? The 500 Cities dataset tries to provide an answer. The data set, which contains estimates of adult chronic disease, unhealthy behaviors, and preventive care for census tracts in 500 of the largest American cities, launched in 2016 thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the CDC Foundation. The Urban Institute released a research report in May 2017 on how to use the data to reach change-making partners. Access the data set here and register for a webinar on Tuesday, June 13, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. (EST) with Urban Institute to learn how to host a local event centered on the new 500 Cities neighborhood-level health data. Census tract-level data allows cities ...

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Although Disparities Still Exist, More Kids Know How to Swim


Latino Health physical activity swimming

The summer swim seasons begins this weekend for most of the country, but many kids have no to low swim ability. In fact, 40% of Caucasian children, 45% of Hispanic children, and nearly 64% of African-American children have no to low swimming ability, according to a new study conducted by the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Although there is a 5-10% improvement in overall swimming ability, 87% of kids with no or low swim ability plan to go swimming this summer at least once, putting them at risk for drowning. What can your community do to boost support for swimming lessons to prevent the horrific tragedy of drowning? Learn more about the complexities of swimming: Swimming may be the most promising physical activity to get Latino kid's active. ...

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Early Head Start Services for Migrant Families


Latino health early childhood development head start

Not all kids start kindergarten equally prepared to succeed. By a child's third birthday, 85% of their brain is fully developed. Children of migrant workers and Latino children growing up exposed to adverse childhood experiences, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, and poverty, as well as limited access to healthy food and safe places to play, are at increased risk for developing physical, mental, behavioral, psychosocial, and/or cognitive issues. High-quality early childhood programs can help level the playing field for Latino children on vocabulary and on social and emotional development. With federal funding, the East Coast Migrant Health Start Project serves 3,145 children annually through 26 Head Start centers in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South ...

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Parents Help Save Pool in Low-Income Minneapolis Area


pool saved hannah lieder minneapolis phillips pool

Hannah Lieder, foster mother and founder of Minneapolis Swims, has been working since 2010 to keep open the local Phillips Pool in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minn. Why? Lieder knows that children living in low-income, Latino, or minority neighborhoods have historically lacked convenient access to physical activity spaces, particularly swimming pools, compared to white or high-income neighborhoods. These social and environmental inequalities contribute to disparities in drowning rates, physical activity levels, health outcomes and academic achievement. Phillips Pool was in disrepair and under constant threat to be concreted over. Now, six years later, Lieder’s legacy lives on, through Denny Bennett, as crews will break ground on the Phillips Aquatics ...

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Video: Different Approach to Traffic Safety



How many people do you think are killed or severely injured in traffic crashes each year? What do you think is a good goal for your state? What should the goal be for your family? Should that be the goal for everyone? Oregon's regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, Metro, asked residents these questions at the KidFest! Family Expo in February 2017. See video. The goals was to frame traffic fatalities as preventable and raise awareness about Vision Zero. Vision Zero is an innovative road safety policy to make streets safer and eliminate traffic fatalities Skeptics claim that car crashes are an inevitable outcome in our vehicle-dominated society. Vision Zero draws a hard line between crashes and fatalities. Fatalities and serious injuries are not inevitable and ...

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