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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

New Law in Nevada Requires Police Send Notice to Schools if Student Exposed to Trauma



Children exposed to traumatic events can struggle to focus, learn, and thrive in school. In the aftermath of a traumatic event, the school setting might potentially buffer or aggravate the negative effects of toxic stress. Worse, school personnel often have no idea what kind of internal wounds their students bring to class, thus are not prepared to act as buffers. That’s why Nevada’s (29% Latino) state government recently passed Senate Bill 80, a state law requiring the establishment of the Handle with Care. What is Handle With Care? Handle With Care is a West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice’s program promotes communication and collaboration with police, schools, and mental health leaders to help children who’ve experienced trauma. It enables local police to ...

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Will San Antonio’s New Pedestrian Mobility Job Make an Impact?



Access to safe, reliable transportation options matters, especially for health and wellbeing. A lack of options can make it impossible to keep a job, get out of poverty, and care for aging family members. In San Antonio (64% Latino), walking is not safe; therefore, public transit quickly becomes an unrealistic option, limiting resident’s transportation options and access to opportunity. That’s why the city government created a new position to develop a coordinated non-vehicular pedestrian mobility effort in its discussions about the 2019 budget. Pedestrian Mobility Officer Last month, city officials hired San Antonio’s first Pedestrian Mobility Officer, Timothy Hayes. This position will dedicate Hayes to enhancing the pedestrian experience by developing and ...

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What are the 100 Most Dangerous Congressional Districts for People Walking?



People in lower-income neighborhoods die while walking at much higher rates than those in better socio-economic areas. Why? Impoverished communities are significantly less likely to have sidewalks, marked crosswalks, and street design to support safer, slower speeds, according to Smart Growth America. Dangerous Congressional Districts Moreover, many communities have spent decades designing streets for speeding cars rather than prioritizing safety for walkers, bikers, and those taking transit. Since federal dollars and policies helped create these unsafe streets, Smart Growth America thinks that federal funds, policies, and guidance have a significant role in fixing existing and designing future streets. To urge guidance from elected representatives, Smart Growth America and ...

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Tell Healthy People 2030: Address Social Determinants in New Definition of Health Literacy



What exactly is “health literacy”? Governmental health leaders want to provide a good definition. Healthy People 2030, a 10-year outline of health improvement goals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wants your input on their working definition: “Health literacy occurs when a society provides accurate health information and services that people can easily find, understand, and use to inform their decisions and actions.” This definition, while an improvement over Healthy People 2020’s, focuses too much on healthcare-related information and services and too little on the social determinants of health. So, we drafted a model comment and a revised definition to submit by Aug. 5, 2019! Send an Email: Address Social Determinants in the Definition of ...

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Guidebook: Improving Public Transit and Active Transportation Integration



Although public transit is far safer than driving, the walk or bike to a transit stop can be hazardous. To grow transit ridership and increase the people-moving capacity of a roadway, it is critical to include active transportation as an integral element of all transit infrastructure and operations. That’s why The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), based in Toronto, recently released its new guidebook on that very subject. “Transit operates most effectively when planned and built in close connection to walking and cycling facilities,” the guidebook states. It highlights some of the most innovative policy strategies, implimaination planning, infrastructure, and programming that transit agencies have been employed — seeking to better coordinate and improve active ...

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Transportation Advocacy Group Conducts Transit Equity Analysis


transit equity for family health

Every segment of American society—individuals, families, communities, and businesses—benefits from public transit. However, there is a lack of equity in these services. Latinos, for example, often report bus routes are unreliable, infrequent, or even unsafe, contributing to disparities in health and wealth, according to a Salud America! Research Review. An equitable transit network for Latino and all families starts with an equity analysis. That’s why transportation advocacy group, LINK Houston, conducted its  Equity in Transit 2018 Report. They found that nearly one million residents in Houston, Texas (44.5% Latino) are living in areas with high-transit needs, but do not have access to frequent weekday, weekend, and evening services. Do you know who has access to ...

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Report: Demand Is Rising for Walkable Urban Places



Walkable urban places correlate with economic, social equity, and environmental benefits, according to a new report. The new report, Foot Traffic Ahead 2019, ranks the amount and characteristics of walkable urban places in the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, just 0.04-1.2% of land in these cities counts as walkable urban places. The new report explores the reasons for this deficiency and outlines how cities can stimulate more walkable urbanism and its many benefits. “U.S. metros where the public and private sectors work together to adapt and deliver increased supply of walkable urban places will be the economic and social justice winners of the next generation,” according to the Foot Traffic Ahead report, released in June 2019 by Smart Growth ...

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District in San Antonio to Open Health Clinic for Students, Families



Last week, San Antonio’s (64% Latino) Southside Independent School District dedicated the Susan Hall Community Health Clinic, which will offer care to students, families, staff, and other district members. This is a big deal for health in the South Side of San Antonio, where residents live 15-20 years less than those on the North Side, according to the 2016 Bexar County Community Health Needs Assessment. Southside ISD has been in talks with University Health Systems (UHS) to run the clinic and is expected to vote on an agreement at its July 18 board meeting. Health Needs on South Side Many low-income families on the South Side lack access health care and health-promotion opportunities: 12.41% of households don’t have a vehicle, compared to 5.49% in Texas; 30.39% of ...

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Texas Adopts Goal to End Traffic Deaths by 2050


Texas streets, homes and businesses.

At least one person has been killed in a traffic crash in Texas every day since Nov. 7, 2000. That’s why Vision Zero Texas has enabled advocates to push Texas leaders, including a letter-writing campaign (with Salud America! participation) and in-person advocacy, for strategies to improve road safety and set a goal to have zero deaths on state roads. The efforts are paying off. In May 2019, the Texas Transportation Commission voted to adopt a goal of reducing traffic fatalities on the state’s roadways to zero by the year 2050! Traffic Deaths in Texas Nearly 3,600 people died on Texas roads in 2018. Why? Human factors, like distracted driving and speeding, vehicle factors, like breaks and headlights, and roadway factors, like access points and pedestrian crossings. ...

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