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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

People Stand in San Francisco Street to Create Protected Bike Lane


Latino Health Physical Activity Protected Bike Lane

On a early May morning in San Francisco, Calif. (15.1% Latino), people gathered on a dangerous street to stand arm to arm as a buffer between moving cars and the bike lane. The current bike lane is located between street parking and moving traffic. This is known as a door zone lane because people continuously fling open their car doors in this space and drive into and out of this space to park their cars. As we all know, paint does little to stop a person from driving their vehicle over or parking in the "protected" space. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA) saw the bike lanes fill up with auto traffic and double parking and proposed protected bike lanes for an upcoming project on the neighboring one-way street, according to Streets Blog San Francisco. ...

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Major San Antonio Employer Increases Time For Paid Family Leave


Latino health parental maternity leave

Paid maternity leave is linked to numerous positive health outcomes for parents and baby, breastfeeding is one. Sadly, in the U.S., only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. The Thing About Paid Family Leave Policies The thing about paid family leave policies in the U.S., is that the U.S. does not mandate paid family leave. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and soon New York are the only states to have state-mandated paid leave plans in place. Among 41 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Union, the U.S. is the only country not to require paid maternity leave. The U.S. provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the federal Family Medical Leave ...

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New Bill in Washington Requires the Reporting of PE Quality in Schools


Latino Health Physical Activity PE

Physical activity is linked with academic achievement and improved mental and physical health. Sadly, many Latino majority schools do not provide recommended time for recess or quality PE, thus kids fall behind and are at higher risk for chronic disease. On April 20th, 2017, the Governor of Washington (12.4% Latino) signed a new bill (HB 1235) which assesses PE practices in public schools. Effective July, 23, 2017, the bill requires all schools to conduct an annual review of their PE programs, to include: number of students completing PE per year number of minutes per week of PE number of students granted waivers from PE requirements instructors with valid health and fitness endorsements The results of the review will be shared with the school district's ...

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Safety First: New Partnership Pushes Safer Streets


Latino health physical activity traffic safety walkability vision zero

Although walking has numerous mental and physical benefits-and is fun-many people avoid walking if the streets aren't safe, which limits their mobility and access to basic necessities like schools, work, grocery stores, parks, healthcare, and other cultural and historical community resources. When it comes to safe streets, the U.S. lags far behind other countries. Given the inequity in access to safe streets and the disparities in fatalities and injuries among minorities, the issue of safe streets extends far beyond transportation planning and requires collaboration with public health and social justice researchers and practitioners. “We won’t save the number of lives we aim to without shifting our understanding of traffic violence from an individual behavior problem to a ...

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New White Paper on Health, Behavioral Design, and the Built Environment


Latino health physical activity behavioral design

Food and physical activity are both continuous and cumulative habits. Small changes every day can drastically improve your health and quality of life. However, the built world, whether intentional or not, influences the human experience. Many people live and work in places that impede or reduce physical activity and sell or promote unhealthy food. The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) brings together four of the nation’s leading research funders—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—to accelerate progress in reducing childhood obesity in America. Their new white paper builds on a series of behavioral ...

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2017 Active Living Summit


Latino Health Active Living

Are you interested in changing people's health outcomes through programs, policy changes, and infrastructure improvements? Check out the inaugural Active Living Summit hosted by Movement Makers in Richmond, VA, May 17-19, 2017. We will be there to learn and present! Hear stories about policies changed, advocacy wins, innovative school initiatives, and more. Discover how to build play in urban environments on a playability walk. Learn more about setting expectations with the funding community and creating better tools online to support physical activity in your city. Key note speakers include: Gabe Klein, Co-founder of CityFi and former Commissioner of Chicago and Washington D.C. Departments of Transportation. Dominique Dawes, Olympic Gold Medalist, and former Co-chair ...

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Report: Parents’ Attitudes Towards Food Marketing


Latino Health

The newly released UConn Rudd Center Parents’ Attitudes Towards Food Marketing Report highlights parents’ views about food marketing to children and food self-industry regulation, and their support for policies to help encourage healthy eating for their children. The Rudd Center surveyed over 3,500 parents with children ages 2 to 17. Researchers used a cross-sectional sample of parents, including black, Hispanic, and low-income parents, and assessed changes from 2012 to 2015. Because we don't live in a bubble, building a culture of health requires a look at food companies' marketing practices. For example, baby food marketing to Latino parents does not align with expert opinion, and 90% of snack food ads push unhealthy options to Latino kids. according to two other reports by ...

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Parenting Master Classes Use Latino Cultural Perspective



Many factors influence early childhood development, school readiness, and health. For example, Latino parents are less likely to engage their children in preliteracy activities or read books to them leading to cognitive and oral communication gaps in Latino children. Culturally relevant parent counseling, education and support can play a huge role in childhood literacy and health, because kids who do better in school become healthier adults. Three groups in Walla Walla, Washington (21.6% Latino) worked together to create a 10-week series of FREE parenting master classes, Abriendo Puertas-Spanish for Opening Doors-that use a Latino cultural perspective and are taught in Spanish. The three groups are, Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition,  the Walla Walla Community College ...

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Physical Activity, Not Body Mass Index, Predicts Less Disability Before and After Stroke


Latino health walking physical activity

Stroke is the most frequent cause of adult-onset disability in the US. Sadly, there are disparities in average age for stroke, meaning some populations are at an increased risk at a younger age and some populations live with the physical, emotional, and financial burdens at a younger age. For example, the average age for stroke in Latinos is 67 compared to 80 for non-Latino whites. Physical activity may be your best bet to not only prevent a stroke, but to reduce disability or impairment after a stroke. People who are less physically active are less likely to be able to do basic self-care functions like bathing, eating and getting in and out of bed after a stroke compared to those who were regularly physically active, according to a new report. The act of being active may be ...

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Elementary Students Can Take “Body Break” Any Time During Class



When we are talking about academic performance, there is no right or wrong way to "workout." Any physical activity to get you moving and to get your blood pumping is beneficial and can boost your mood and help you reset and focus. Confederation Park Community School in Saskatoon Canada opens their gym all day and allows students to leave class at any time to burn off some energy. The goal is to empower kids to explore different kinds of physical activity when they feel like they can't concentrate in class. They can walk or run, do weights, play on gymnastics rings, flip big tires over, throw weighted balls, do yoga, dance, and many more activities. "Brain breaks" are one effective method to get kids moving in the classroom, but, as parents and teachers know, kids come to ...

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