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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

Latino Health Champions for Hispanic Heritage Month


Latino Health Champions Healthier Generation

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Alliance for a Healthier Generation is sharing a series of stories about Latino health champions. These champions—Bianca De León, Alejandro Diasgranados, Mario Reyna, and Pia Escudero—have different backgrounds and interests. But they share a passion for creating health equity and a more just, equitable, inclusive, and healthy future for children and families. Read their stories! Bianca De León: Community-Building to Connect Kids to Positive Experiences Bianca De León grew up speaking both English and Spanish with her single mother in their community along the U.S.-Mexico border. She had a loving network of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents. Now, as a mother, she continues to forge these ...

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Regulating Autonomous Vehicles Must Address Safety for Everyone, Total Emissions


Regulating Autonomous Vehicles Must Address Safety for Everyone, Total Emissions

Pedestrian fatalities have increased 50% since 2009. Autonomous vehicles—those driven by automated driving systems rather than a human—are often suggested as a solution by politicians, planners, even some safety advocates. But with our nation’s struggle to regulate the automobile industry and failure to protect people walking, many worry about the decades-long shift to autonomous vehicles because cars will still dominate roads and road design. Moreover, many worry that electric driverless vehicles district from the social, economic, and health issues cities are facing today. “Public health will benefit if proper policies and regulatory frameworks are implemented before the complete introduction of [autonomous vehicles] into the market,” according to David Rojas-Rueda ...

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UPDATE: Health Equity Report Card Covers Social Vulnerability, COVID-19


Health Equity Report Card Covers Social Vulnerability, COVID-19

We have updated our Health Equity Report Card to include place-based information on your county’s Social Vulnerability Index Score and COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. The Salud America! Health Equity Report Card, first launched in 2017, auto-generates Latino-focused and local data with interactive maps and comparative gauges, which can help you visualize and explore inequities in housing, transit, poverty, health care, food, and education. You will see how your county stacks up in these health equity issues — now including social vulnerability and COVID-19 — compared to your state and the nation. Then you can share the Report Card with your local leaders to advocate for healthy change! Get your Health Equity Report Card! Why We Need to Consider ...

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Zo Mpofu & Dakisha Wesley: Forging Alliances to Declare Racism a Public Health and Safety Crisis


Zo Mpofu and DK Wesley Forge Alliances to Declare Racism a Public Health and Safety Crisis

Zo Mpofu believes protecting the health of mothers and babies in childbirth is a moral responsibility. That is why it alarmed Mpofu, a human services program consultant for Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services in North Carolina, that local black women are 3.8 times more likely to lose their baby in the first year of life than white women. Also, Dakisha “DK” Wesley, assistant county manager in Buncombe County, worried that black people accounted for 25% of the jailed population, despite being 6.3% of the local population. Mpofu and Wesley believe these are the results of structural racism. That is why these government employees collaborated with cross-sector partners to urge Buncombe County leaders to pass three resolutions declaring racism a public ...

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How Has COVID-19 Impacted Physical Activity for Youth?


COVID-19’s Impact on Youth Physical Activity

Loss of physical activity can harm physical, emotional, and social health. Amid COVID-19 illness and isolation, some youth and families have experienced a loss of physical activity, according to a new report from Safe Routes Partnership, “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: COVID-19’s Impact on Youth Physical Activity and Safe Routes to School.” The report explores research and expert perspectives on COVID-19’s impact on physical and emotional health to paint a holistic picture of how physical activity has changed during COVID-19. The report also has recommendations for supporting physical activity strategies and centering physical, emotional, and social health in equitable pandemic recovery plans. Our team at Salud America! was honored to contribute to this report ...

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A New Normal: Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive


A New Normal: Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive

As America reopens cautiously and as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, the National Urban League is exploring what a “new normal” really means. Why? Because the pandemic worsened deep-rooted inequities and pre-existing health disparities, causing Black, Latino, and other people of color to suffer high burdens of sickness and death. So they reached out to public health professionals, civil rights leaders, elected officials, and community advocates to hear their visions for a new normal for their 45th annual State of Black America® report on racial equity in America. The new report contains 23 essays urging a new normal that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We are excited to announce that Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San ...

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Healthy People 2030 Adds 4 Objectives on Childhood Trauma, Up From 0


Healthy People 2030

For the first time, the Healthy People 2030 guidelines have added four objectives on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), a step to recognize the systemic impact of childhood trauma on health. ACEs, such as abuse and poverty, are a public health crisis. None of the past Healthy People editions ─ 1990, 2000, 2010, 2020 ─ had an objective to address ACEs as part of its national guidance to promote health and prevent disease. Now there are four objectives! This is a huge win for the 2,214 Salud America! network members who emailed public comments and other child development and public health professionals who submitted nearly 3,000 additional comments to add ACEs-related objectives. “I was surprised to learn ‘adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)’ and ‘childhood ...

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25,000 Comments Call for Safety Reforms in a Transportation Engineering ‘Bible’


Overhaul of the MUTCD

More than 25,000 public comments were submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on proposed changes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Our team at Salud America! developed three model comments asking FHWA to adopt a public health and Safe System Approach to reframe and rewrite the 700-page MUTCD, one of transportation engineering’s “bibles” that guides road creation. More than 2,100 people visited our model comments over 30 days and nearly 450 people submitted our model comments. “This enormous volume of comments (a more than ten-fold increase over the last time the MUTCD was updated in 2009) demonstrates the degree to which Americans want change,” according to a post from the National Association of City Transportation Officials ...

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Tell Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): Overhaul Transportation Engineering Standards to Integrate Public Health



What we engineer and build impacts public health, safety, and welfare. However, transportation engineering prioritizes convenience for people driving over safety for people walking or biking. This makes streets more dangerous for everyone, including drivers. Now is our opportunity to change all that. Public comments are wanted on revisions to one of transportation engineering’s “bibles,” the 700-page Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD). The MUTCD, which was last rewritten 50 years ago from the point of view of expediting vehicle movement, is full of assumptions, restrictions, and contradictions that hinder efforts to improve safety and create vibrant, welcoming streets. Submit one of three Salud America! model comments to tell ...

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