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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

7 Case Studies on Successful Physical Activity Campaigns


Latino Health Trail Lights Safety Sidewalk Physical Activity

Communities and organizations play a role in developing policies and programs to support walking, biking, physical activity, and healthy communities. Whether for recreation, transportation, work, or household, physical activity improves mental and physical health and reduces risk for chronic disease. In order to reduce health disparities, it is important for communities to ensure that all residents have access to safe places to walk, bike, play and be active where they live, learn, work, play, pray. Check out these seven case studies from Voices 4 Healthy Kids and Safe Routes to School National Partnership, which demonstrate successful state- and local-level campaigns to increase physical activity, through active transportation funding, Safe Routes to School, Complete ...

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Multidisciplinary Design Charrette Transforms Conventional Planning Process


Latino Health Walkability Design Community Planning

Designing healthy, complete neighborhoods requires a holistic, collaborative process, but collaboration can get messy. Charrettes are a creative way for agencies, organizations, groups, and community members to bust out of their specialist silos and work together to solve community planning and design problems. Charrettes are of often intense meetings lasting multiple days. The National Charrette Institute (NCI) began training professionals in collaborative design and charrettes in 2002. In 2017, NCI partnered with the Michigan State University (MSU) School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC) and MSU Extension. Professionals, such as transportation engineers, architects, urban designers, and planners need to work together with citizens, elected officials, ...

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4 Policy Levers for MPOs to Promote Physical Activity and Health


Latino Health Walkability Active Living Planning Transportation

How we get around each day shapes our physical and mental health, and overall quality of life. Walkable communities are consistently found to be healthier communities. Demand for walkability has steadily increased. Regional transportation planning agencies and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) play a critical role in planning and constructing more convenient, attractive, and safe places to walk or bike for transportation, recreation, and/or health because they are the gatekeepers of billions of transportation dollars. The American Public Health Association and Transportation for America developed a policy paper outlining four policy levers for MPOs to prioritize health in their plans, projects, and policies to decrease health disparities and increase access to local ...

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Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach


Latino Health Healthy Eating Research Infant Toddler Feeding

In addition to breastfeeding, research suggests that other factors that may also play a critical role in helping Latino kids achieve a healthy weight by kindergarten: mothers’ physical activity and healthy eating habits before and during pregnancy, formula marketing, maternity leave, and kids’ healthy eating and physical activity habits established during early childhood. An expert panel, convened by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, developed Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers, a report of evidence-based recommendations for promoting healthy nutrition and feeding patterns for infants and toddlers. These guidelines can be used by parents and caregivers in the home, as well as be applied in child-care settings where ...

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Akron School Increases Time for Recess


Latino Health School Recess Physical Activity

Teachers in Betty Jane Elementary School in Akron, Ohio noticed kids were restless and not paying attention in class. Although testing is right around the corner, the school principal increased time for recess 15-20 minutes everyday. Schools play a huge role in helping kids reach their recommended daily physical activity, which boosts their mental and physical health, as well as their academic performance. Betty Jane Elementary also does a "Fit Five" brain break every morning, which is five minutes of physical activity in the classroom. Test scores improved from the fall to spring semester. The students' social skills are also thought to have improved given additional time in an unstructured setting. It is important that teachers and school officials understand that ...

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A Resident’s Guide for Creating Safer Communities for Walking and Biking


Latino Health Walkability Traffic Safety

Walkable communities are safe and healthy communities. The Every Body Walk! Collaborative (EBWC) and partners developed the Social Justice Toolkit to identify key areas where walking and walkability can help address disparities within communities. The toolkit includes talking points and sample messages and resources that relate to the development of safe spaces for walking. One resource in this toolkit is the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration's A Resident's Guide for Creating Safer Communities for Walking and Biking, which includes facts, ideas, and resources to help residents learn about traffic problems that affect pedestrians and bicyclists and to find ways to help address these problems. Section One: What's the problem here? Section Two: ...

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Experimental Lab Leads to Underground Park in Abandoned Trolley Terminal


Latino Health Walkability Green Space

An underground lab experiment in New York City (28.6% Latino) just successfully tested if solar panel skylights could sustain plant life to determine if an underground park could thrive. This lab experiment is the result of five years of discussions about transforming the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, which stopped servicing passengers in 1948, into an underground park with a cultural center and area for concerts. The terminal has been out of operation longer that it was in operation. In 2011, two urbanist entrepreneurs proposed the idea for the Delancy Underground, which is now known as the Lowline. Reclaiming public space is at the heart of growing healthy communities and economics around the world, particularly when space has gone unused for decades. The ...

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Arkansas House of Representatives Passed Bill Aligning Food Stamps With Other Health Initiatives


Latino Health WIC SNAP policy sugary drinks

Obesity rates in Arkansas (7.2% Latino) have been on the rise. Excessively sugary foods and drinks increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, and other chronic diseases. According to our research review, Latinos and people living in poverty are more likely to consume excessively sugary foods and drinks. To address poor nutrition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has modified the nutrition standards for nearly all of its federal food programs to align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, except for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Arkansas Lawmakers proposed House Bill 1035 during the 2017 legislative session that would limit SNAP to foods that have "sufficient nutritional value." The Arkansas Department of Health ...

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Lawmakers Want To Lower Speed Limits in Texas Cities


Latino Health Vision Zero Pedestrian Safety

Four Texas cities are in the top 10 nationwide cities for speed-related fatal crashes. At 40 miles per hour, 90% of people who are hit while walking do not survive, compared to only 10% at 20 mph. Latinos make up a larger portion of pedestrian fatalities than whites. Speed is the most important factor to regulate to improve pedestrian safety for Latinos and all pedestrians. On February 10, 2017, Texas State Representative Celia Israel called for passage of the Safe Neighborhood Streets Bill (HB 1368) to lower the default speed limit in urban areas by 5 miles per hour, from 30 mph to 25 mph. Decreasing the speed limit to 25 mph would increase a pedestrian's odds of surviving a collision by 43%, according to one source, and could reduce disparities in pedestrian ...

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Mind the Gap: Using Public Transportation to Connect Neighborhoods and Grocery Stores


Latino Health FArmers Market Public Transportation

Public transportation matters for healthy food access. When grocery stores aren't close to home, which is the case in many Latino neighborhoods, people lack access to healthy food-and various other destinations. Public transportation can play a huge role in connecting families in disadvantaged areas to healthy resources to build a culture of health for everyone. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership developed a 2-page fact sheet which identifies inequities in access and provides examples of strategies for transit agencies to connect neighborhoods and grocery stores. Safe Routes also developed a fact sheet outlining the role of transit agencies in improving food access. Check out these solutions to help transit agencies create and strengthen the connection between ...

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