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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

14 Stories from Black People Who Love Bikes


Stories from Black people who bike

Harmful biases impact the world of bicycling—professional, recreational, doctor-advised, and as a mode of transportation. That’s why we feel it’s essential to promote the stories of 14 riders who shared with Bicycling Magazine about their experiences being Black in the cycling world. These stories, which demonstrate the systemic barriers facing Black riders, are inspiring to many bicycle riders of color, including Latinos, who also deal with physical and silent barriers when it comes to public space. “With the rise of bicycling during this global health pandemic, this is the moment to educate the casual beach cruisers, fully-kitted weekend warriors, the urban planning students who can’t wait to ride back to campus—all of us—on the systemic oppression of Black ...

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2020 Traffic Death Rates Have Gone Up



Although people have been driving less since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the traffic death rate has gone up. Technically, absolute traffic deaths have decreased. But when you factor in the drop in vehicle miles traveled, people are being killed on our roads at a higher rate. Experts blame higher travel speeds due to emptier roads. People Are Driving Less Coronavirus took a major toll on health, especially for Latinos. But the virus also forced lockdowns and isolation across the country, slowing the economy and travel. Travel on roads and streets dropped 25.7% in May 2020, compared to May 2019. This trend continued into June, with a 13% decline in 2020 compared to June 2019, according to preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration, which are the latest available ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 9/8: Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19!


Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact Latinos, killing over 33,000 and hospitalizing many more. To improve Latino health, we must take action to slow the spread of coronavirus. But how do you communicate this issue to Latinos amid misinformation and information overload? Culturally relevant fact sheets, infographics, and video role model stories to inform and urge Latino families to take action to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Let’s use #SaludTues on Sept. 8, 2020, to Tweet about the #JuntosStopCOVID campaign to make sure Latinos and all people know what they can do to slow the spread of COVID-19. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. EST Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag ...

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For COVID-19 Recovery, Invest in People and Places


Invest in people and places

Helping families recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 requires far more than a paycheck, particularly when already underfunded social services and transit agencies face budget cuts. To build resilience after COVID-19, cities need to invest in people and in places. More specifically, cities need to build a community-based workforce to ramp up social services, and cities need to invest in affordable transportation options. Cities Face More Than COVID-19 Economic Devastation The economic fallout from COVID-19 is real for cities and families, particularly for Latinos, who were already drastically underpaid compared to white workers. Beyond unequal pay, Latino and low-income families face a legacy of discriminatory policies and practices that have resulted in unaffordable ...

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Building a Community-Based Workforce to Address COVID-19 Recovery, Public Safety


meeting community-based social workers amid covid-19

Too many social support tasks fall to armed police officers. As local leaders discuss COVID-19 recovery plans, they need to consider how to address these social support issues in tandem with economic issues. Many cities are exploring how to reform or reimagine police. This often includes partnering with community-based social, behavioral, and mental health services. However, community partners may lack capacity for city-wide change. That’s why cities need to build a community-based workforce to coordinate community development, help families recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout, and reform police, simultaneously. Expensive Spending on Traditional Policing Public safety is a major city expense. Of the 50 largest cities, spending on police accounts for the ...

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2 States Are Expanding Medicaid amid COVID-19 Surge


Current-Status-of-the-Medicaid-Expansion-Decision_KFF_

As of June 2020, 14 U.S. states continued to reject Medicaid expansion, leaving many without an affordable healthcare coverage option. Then COVID-19 hit—hardest among low-income, uninsured families, particularly Latinos. In response to surging coronavirus cases, Oklahoma (11.1% Latino), the state with the second-highest uninsured rates, voted to expand Medicaid on July 1, 2020. A month later on Aug. 4, Missouri (4.4% Latino) also voted to expand Medicaid. In these two states alone, roughly 430,000 low-income adults will be eligible for Medicaid. “The American Heart Association supports expanding Medicaid because people living with low incomes are disproportionately affected by heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Medicaid serves as the coverage backbone for the ...

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A National Museum of the American Latino is Closer Than Ever


Latino museum

On July 27, 2020, the U.S. House unanimously approved a bill authorizing the Smithsonian Institution to build a National American Latino Museum. Introduced by New York Representative José Serrano and co-sponsored by 295 democrats and republicans, the museum will join 11 other Smithsonian museums along the National Mall in Washington D.C., such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian. A companion bill for the Latino museum was introduced in the Senate in May 2019. “Spanish was the first non-native language to be spoken in the United States,” said Texas Democratic Rep. and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Joaquin Castro, according to The Texan. “Latinos have fought in every U.S. war. Food and ...

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3 New Ways to Fix Our Failed Approach to Speed Limits


3 New Ways to Fix Our Failed Approach to Speed Limits

American cities are failing at traffic safety—largely due to unsafe speeds. Urban arterials—roads that link major activity centers and highways—accounted for 29% of all U.S. fatal crashes between 2014 and 2018, despite making up only 6% of roadways. That’s why the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) developed City Limits, a framework for setting safe speed limits for city streets and providing strategies to manage speed. “Most speeds limits are set using an oversimplified and outdated method: measure 100 drivers traveling without any traffic and set the speed limit based on the 15th-fastest driver,” said Jenny O’Connell, NACTO Program Manager, according to a NACTO press release. “If this sounds like a system that would create ...

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Without Safeguards, SNAP Online Food Purchases Could Threaten Participants’ Privacy, Undermine their Health


SNAP Online Food Purchasing Program

Before COVID-19, families with SNAP federal food aid could not use their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards to buy groceries online. They had to go to into stores and risk infection. The good news is 37 states now have a SNAP online food purchasing programs. The bad news is that those online purchasing programs could “expose [SNAP] participants to increased data collection and surveillance, a flood of intrusive and manipulative online marketing techniques, and pervasive promotion of unhealthy foods,” according to the Center for Digital Democracy. The Center’s new report explains how federal and state policies fail to protect consumers against unhealthy food marketing, threatening the health of SNAP families. The report also recommends regulatory safeguards, industry ...

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