About the Author

Author Picture

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.


Connect with Amanda:
Twitter Link

Articles by Amanda Merck

The Upstream Effect: Support Families, Prevent Child Maltreatment


Doctor holding hands for comforting and care patient pediatric economic heath hardship

No money. No quality childcare. No social or legal support. These big stressors plague low-income parents, and can spur domestic strife and child maltreatment, hampering a child’s early and future development. Fortunately, Project DULCE is testing a unique solution. The project adds a “family specialist” to a child’s pediatric healthcare team. The specialist then connects low-income families to social services─like food stamps, housing vouchers, and legal services─to reduce economic stress and prevent maltreatment. Can this kind of an “upstream-downstream” solution work? The Upstream-Downstream Parable Public health advocates often talk about health in an “upstream-downstream” fashion. They want to highlight the importance of prevention and the influence ...

Read More

Residents Unite to Prevent Private Road from Cutting off a Trail



As an avid cyclist, Brian Pearson loved riding the new $8 million hike-and-bike trail in his town of Fall River, Mass. (8% Latino). Then he learned a new road project could damage the trail. The 2.4-mile Alfred J. Lima Quequechan River Rail Trail—which fully opened in May 2017 after nine years of work and an $8 million investment by the state to improve mobility and access to safe places to play—was jeopardized when city officials tried to enable a developer to build a road that would have crossed and re-routed the trail. Pearson and others were outraged. They gathered information, attended city meetings, and held a rally. They even hired a lawyer to fight for trail preservation. Would it be enough to save the trail? Restoring the River The Quequechan River Rail ...

Read More

One Man’s Drive to Get Buses Moving in San Antonio


Councilmember Rey Saldaña checks his phone to locate his current route on the bus Source Scott Ball Rivard Report

A few years ago, San Antonio City Council member Rey Saldaña tried his own transportation experiment. He ditched his car and relied on public transit for one month. The good? Saldaña met great people. He read. He explored the city. Parking was no problem. The bad? When buses ran late, he missed connections and showed up late to council meetings. Rain drenched him at bus stops. He had to skip fun activities because of a lack of frequent routes. Saldaña’s eye-opening experiment led him to champion more funding for VIA Metropolitan Transit (VIA), the regional mass transit agency serving San Antonio and Bexar County, which operates with the least amount of funding among all major transit authorities in Texas. His efforts spurred the city to invest millions to improve public ...

Read More

Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training Gets Refunded



Traumatic events, like sexual assault, physically change our brain, releasing stress hormones which influence perception, reaction and memory. Yet, many law enforcement agencies have lacked the training opportunities, tools, resources, and support needed to effectively address these crimes and the traumatized victims, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. To raise awareness about the neurobiological impact of trauma and trauma-informed investigative strategies, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) created a two-day Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training. Sexual Assault in the US One in three women and one in six men have experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their ...

Read More

No More Us vs. Them: Trauma Training is Rebuilding Police-Community Trust



Police came to four-year-old Fatimah Muhammad’s house in Newark, N.J. (34% Latino), after an altercation between her parents. They came in with force. They had guns. They aggressively grabbed and body-slammed her father before taking him away, Muhammad said. “I was completely terrified,” she said. “Instead of feeling grateful.” As a kid, Muhammad didn’t have a name for some of the traumas that she and her neighborhood were experiencing, like police aggression, domestic violence, and mass incarceration. But she felt an “us vs. them” sense when it came to police. Years later, amid a wave of unlawful policing in Newark, Muhammad helped seize an opportunity to unite police and community to explore trauma and rebuild trust. ‘Unconstitutional’ Law ...

Read More

San Antonio Leaders Weigh Plan to Triple Funding for Affordable Housing


Woodland Ridge Apartments in Medical Center

“Affordable living” is a myth for many people in San Antonio, Texas (63.6% Latino). More than half of people here don’t make the $18 an hour needed to afford the median apartment rent. Population and job growth outpace housing by 2.3 to 1. Affordable housing is lacking. Evictions nearly doubled between 2013 and 2016. This threatens economic opportunity and health for many Latino families. That’s why the Mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force’s new report urges the San Antonio City Council to budget for new housing jobs, triple city spending on affordable housing production and rehabilitation, and even change the city’s charter to create new ways to pay for more affordable housing. “For us to make a significant impact, it’s going to require a long view and ...

Read More

#SaludTues Tweetchat 9/11/2018: “Change the Way You Commute: Why & How”


Skateboarding and taking the bus.

Commuting is often the worst part of our day. Driving is linked to poor physical and mental health, increased risk for traffic fatalities and serious injuries, and is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Changing the way you commute can help improve your health and the health of the environment. Whether you’re heading back to school or just want to change up your routine, ditch the car and explore ways to add walking, biking, and transit to your commute. Let's use #SaludTues on September 11, 2018, to tweet about ways to change your commute and why it’s important. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “Change the Way You Commute: Why & How” TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. EST Tuesday, September 11, 2018 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag #SaludTues HOST: ...

Read More

Hospital Treats Neighborhood as Patient, Tries to Cure Unstable Housing


Houses renovated by the redevelopment project lead by Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

In Columbus, Ohio (5.8% Latino), the diverse Southern Orchards neighborhood suffers racism, a lack of affordable housing, economic segregation, violent crime, poverty, and expensive medical use. That’s why the whole neighborhood has become a hospital’s “patient.” Nationwide Children’s Hospital saw “unsafe conditions” as their patient’s top symptom. They diagnosed their patient with “unstable housing,” which is known to cause many economic, social, and health hardships, especially for Latinos and other people of color. The hospital prescribed a “housing intervention” and spent the past 10 years revitalizing Columbus’ South Side and Southern Orchards neighborhood through its Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families (HNHF) partnership with faith, community, ...

Read More

Bus Rapid Transit To Connect Latino Mobile Home Park to Opportunity


Bus rapid transit in Bogotá Credit Jason Margolis

Buses don’t run to a Latino mobile home community outside Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Instead, people there are forced to rely on cars─dangerous, expensive, polluting cars─ when they need to get to jobs, food, and healthcare. This isolates them from opportunities for health, jobs, and affordable housing, just like many other suburban and rural parts of our nation. Fortunately, planned public transit improvements will enable more buses across the Twin Cities, including the mobile home community. But how? Will it work for Latinos and all vulnerable neighborhoods? Twin Cities Growing in Population, Traffic The area to the east of the Twin Cities─the Interstate 94 (I-94) corridor─is expected to see a 24% increase in population and a 30% increase in jobs by 2040, according ...

Read More