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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

San Antonio Launches New Nutrition Education Campaign


Latino Health Viva Nutrition

People care deeply about health; however, with so many complicated messages from health experts and contradicting messages from food manufacturers, as well as lack of access to affordable healthy food, it can be very difficult for families to make truly healthy choices. Latinos, in particular, face additional barriers to access healthy food, thus face higher rates of obesity and related chronic diseases. The City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) launched a new ¡Viva Health! Eat well, feel great. Come bien, sientete bien. campaign in March 2017 to target the biggest public health threats of this generation—obesity and diabetes. Obesity is linked to numerous burdensome chronic diseases and diminished quality of life, and diabetes can lead to blindness, ...

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Digital CATCH Website for School Health in English and Spanish


LAtino health physical activity school CATCH

The Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) program is an evidence based physical activity and nutrition program for schools that promotes healthy food choices among children. For over 25 years, the CATCH platform has been the most cost effective means of preventing childhood obesity, in an environment that’s fun and easy to sustain. They are the originators of "GO, SLOW, and WHOA" for identifying healthful foods. CATCH has a new digital website! In Spanish, too! "The program aims to impact messaging a child receives in physical education, the lunchroom, the classroom, and the home, to form an effective resource that impacts a child’s choices not only in school, but lifelong." Share this with teachers, PE teachers, principals, school administrators, and student ...

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Report: Wolf Whistles and Creepy Compliments


Latino health walking safety

By the time many girls reach middle school, suggestive comments - along with unwanted touches, demands for smiles from strangers, and other forms of harassment - become a common experience in public places, according to a new report from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTS). Street harassment is a major barrier for kids and adults trying to get around on foot, by bicycle, or on public transit. When kids don't feel safe, it can cause them to miss school and can negatively impact their mental and physical health, as well as academic achievement. The Wolf Whistles and Creepy Compliments: How Safe Routes to School Programs Can Take Action to Protect Kids from Street Harassment report includes: Introduction  Street Harassment: What, Who, and How? What ...

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Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities


Latino health walking community active living design safe routes complete streets

The way our communities are designed and built can either support or hinder health. This includes sidewalks, bike lanes, public transportation, housing, schools, parks, employment centers, etc. Everyone deserves healthy communities with safe routes to where we live, learn, work, play, and pray, as well as safe routes to healthy food. The American Public Health Association (APHA) and partner organizations have pledged to work together on the Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities. Partners include American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Landscape Architects, National Recreation and Park Association, U.S. Green Building Council, & Urban Land Institute. The signatory ...

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Los Amigos Elementary Bike Train to School


Latino health walking school bus physical activity bike

Elementary schools across Pima County, Arizona (36.4% Latino), like Los Amigos Technology Academy, are encouraging a culture of health and physical activity through walking school buses. In their first year as a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) focus school, Los Amigos teachers and parents developed a Fitness Friday initiative with a bike train and five walking routes that meet to create one large walking school bus. With Living Streets Alliance, they also started a bike repair clinic to teach students basic bike maintenance skills. Over 100 students participate in each Fitness Friday, and over 300 students and local organizations and agencies joined the annual WALKtober challenge to encourage more kids and families to walk or bike to school. "Even with the rough, rocky sides of ...

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San Antonio Seeking Student Ambassadors for 2017-2018


Latino Health Student Ambassador School MFC

The San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council (MFC) Student Ambassador Program is looking for the next group of kids to make their school or community healthier. Not only does San Antonio face high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, but residents face disparities in chronic disease by income, education, and racial and ethnic groups. For example 15% of Latino have diabetes compared to 12% of Non-Latino whites, and 24% of people with an annual income below $25,000 have diabetes compared to 8% of those with an annual income greater than $50,000. It is critical for projects, programs, and policies in San Antonio to address structural and systemic inequity that leads to these disparities. "Now in its fifth year, the Mayor’s Fitness Council trains student ambassadors to ...

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Taking Back the Streets and Sidewalks: How Safe Routes to School and Community Safety Initiatives Can Overcome Violence and Crime


Latino Health Walking Safety Crime and Violence prevention

Crime, violence and the fear of violence lead to reduced physical activity and loss of motivation to invest in health. According to a report from Safe Routes to School National Partnership (SRTS), 23% of Latino parents reported their neighborhoods were unsafe, compared with 8% of white parents. It is critical to address crime and violence for Latinas because 40% fewer girls than boys walk and bicycle to school and 52% of Latina girls are expected to get diabetes over the course of their lifetime. Additionally, Latinos are disproportionately burdened by traffic fatalities compared to whites. The Taking Back the Streets and Sidewalks report from SRTS is a reference for those working on violence prevention to increase the safety and health of children and youth, and ensure that ...

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Silent Barriers to Biking in Communities of Color


Latino Health bike bicycle biking walking pedestrian justice barriers

"Transportation professionals should be more concerned about the personal safety of Black and Hispanic cyclists because they are in a position to change how the built environment either acts as a conduit or barrier to criminal activity," Charles T. Brown, a transportation researcher and adjunct professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University, wrote in his report, Fear: A Silent Barrier to Bicycling in Black and Hispanic Communities. Brown saw a lack of research on transportation justice, which prompted him and James A. Sinclair, research manager at the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center, to explore why some Black and Hispanic individuals choose not to bicycle; what prevents people of color who do bike from cycling more often; and how to encourage all ...

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Cities Across Country Looking to Cut the Default Speed Limit, but States Stand in the Way


Latino Health Walkability Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrians have a 90% survival rate if they are hit by a vehicle going 20 miles per hour, compared to only a 50% survival rate if hit by a vehicle going 30 mph. In 2016, Seattle, WA (6.6% Latino); Alexandria, VA (16.9% Latino); Boston, MA (17.5%Latino); and New York City, NY (28.6% Latino), among other cities lowered the default speed limit in some urban and residential areas by 5-10 mph. Speed is the most important factor to regulate to improve pedestrian safety for Latinos and all pedestrians, and can help boost daily physical activity, which is important for mental and physical health. The founder and director of the Vision Zero Network to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries, Leah Shahum, says state permission is a key obstacle to traffic safety that cities have ...

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Vital Signs Report on Arthritis in America


Latino Health Physical Activity arthritis musculoskeletal

About 60% of adults with arthritis are working age-ages 18-64 years old, according to a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Arthritis is a disabling chronic condition that can lead to severe joint pain and poor physical function and negatively affect quality of life. Physical activity, like walking, swimming, or biking, can decrease arthritis pain and improve physical function; however, people with arthritis are often concerned about worsening pain and damaging joints. Download the March 2017 Vital Signs Fact Sheet. Although Latinos had a lower rates of arthritis, they had a far higher rates of physical limitations due to arthritis. Pain and safety concerns often leads to limited mobility which could ...

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