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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

How to Get 27 Million Americans More Physically Active by 2027


Active people healthy nation

Physical activity, like walking, is one of the best ways a person can improve their health and quality of life, while cutting risk of at least 20 diseases and conditions. Unfortunately, too few communities are designed for walking and physical activity. Intentionally creating communities with safe routes to everyday destinations is a key strategy to increase physical activity─not only to reduce health disparities, healthcare costs, and premature death, but also to increase equitable access to opportunity to build health and wealth. That’s why the CDC launched Active People, Healthy NationSM in January 2020. The initiative will help community leaders use proven strategies to make physical activity safe and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities. It specifically ...

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James Rojas: How Latino Urbanism Is Changing Life in American Neighborhoods


James Rojas Latino Urbanism

James Rojas loved how his childhood home brought family and neighbors together. The L.A. home had a big side yard facing the street where families celebrated birthdays and holidays. Uncles played poker. Aunts tended a garden. Children roamed freely. Mexican elders—with their sternness and house dresses—socialized with their American-born descendants—with their Beatles albums and mini-skirts. Rojas was shocked to find some would look down on this neighborhood. “Why do so many Latinos love their neighborhood so much if they are bad?” he wondered. Rojas, in grad school, learned that neighborhood planners focused far more on automobiles in their designs than they did on the human experience or Latino cultural influences. He wanted to change that. Rojas has spent ...

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Police Chief, Superintendent Start Program to Support Traumatized Kids


Gault and Savage launched the Handle With Care Program in Moline Illinois

Police Chief Darren Gault believes kids deserve more support in avoiding risky behaviors. Gault knows when police officers interact positively with kids inside schools and out, they help kids stay in school and stay away from crime in Moline, Ill. (16.8% Latino). But officers already have so many unfunded mandates on their time. That is why Gault was so excited when he learned about the low-burden, no-cost “Handle With Care” program, which provides positive interactions for kids who experience traumatic events. Gault shared the program with Rachel Savage, superintendent of Moline-Coal Valley School District. Together, Gault and Savage—with help from a Salud America! Action Pack—are launching the Handle With Care. People in Moline Face Stress, Violence Gault and ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 12/17: How to Plan for a Safer and More Active 2020


#SaludTues Tweetchat #SafeRoutes

Much of the disparity we see in traffic deaths and chronic disease is related to how we build roads and communities. Improving safety on our streets, sidewalks, and public spaces can help address decades of disparities. Let’s use #SaludTues on Dec. 17, 2019, to tweet about how you can take time at the end of 2019 to plan for a safer and more active 2020. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “How to Plan for a Safer and More Active 2020” TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. ET Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag #SaludTues HOST: @SaludAmerica CO-HOSTS: America Walks (@americawalks); National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (@NADTCmobility); Safe Routes National Partnership (@SafeRoutesNow); National Complete Streets Coalition (@completestreets) OPTIONAL ...

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This City Ditched its Car-Centric Traditions to Better Serve All Transportation Users


Road Diet on Union Street to include bike lanes

Fred Dock knows that, as cities grow, managing transportation gets tougher. Dock, who headed up transportation for Pasadena, Calif. (34.4% Latino), also knows many cities overly focus on reducing automobile congestion and boosting speed, thus neglect walking, biking, and transit. Two things happen in these cities. Roads become dangerous for people walking and biking, and people are forced to depend on automobiles—the dirtiest, least efficient, and most expensive mode of travel. Dock wanted to help Pasadena out of this trap. Pasadena city leaders hoped to create an integrated, multimodal transportation system with choices and accessibility for everyone. But they wouldn’t achieve this vision using current auto-centric road metrics—that’s when Dock stepped up to ...

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In Aftermath of a Shooting, This School Leader Is Building a Positive School Climate for Nevada Students


Malich speaking on the Truancy Diversion Program in May 2018. Source: Nevada 8th JD Court

On the night of Oct. 1, 2017, a shooter opened fire at a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. He killed 59 people, injured 500 more, and traumatized thousands of kids and families. For Tammy Malich, it was another wake-up call on the path to a positive school climate. Malich, assistant superintendent at Clark County School District in Nevada, already ushered the district toward restorative justice—addressing the mental and emotional roots of student behaviors instead of immediately punishing students—to improve classroom success. But the shooting highlighted the kind of trauma students may experience at home or in the community, which can burden learning and attendance in school. Malich wanted Clark County schools to be better prepared to help traumatized students. She ...

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What Health Professionals Need to Know about Transportation and ‘Level of Service’


How Measuring Vehicle Miles Traveled Can Promote Health Equity

Do you know how roadways are graded? Most transportation indicators grade based on the level of motor vehicle traffic on a road, with little consideration for people walking, bike or taking transit, and vehicle travel. This leads planners to design car-focused roads that neglect transit and non-motorized travel, which is counterproductive to social, environmental, and health goals. Using level of service (LOS), for example, to assess road performance tends to expand roadways and increase vehicular speeds to benefit cars and trucks only. This ends up enabling more vehicle travel and reducing feasibility of walking, biking, and busing. That’s why five early-adopter cities in California transitioned away from a narrow focus on moving as many cars as fast as possible, to a more ...

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#SaludTues 11/5/19: Measuring Transportation Impacts for Health, Equity and Sustainability


#SaludTues

The methods used to measure and analyze the impact of transportation projects matter for health, equity and sustainability. Vehicle delay, for example, is a poor measure of transportation impact and incorrectly equates low levels of auto delay with mobility and preservation of the environment. Yet, many regions and states rely on vehicle delay to determine which projects get funded and expedited. Measuring the amount and distance of vehicle travel rather than delay encourages infrastructure for transit and non-motorized travel and facilitates mixed-use, transit-oriented development (TOD) and infill development. Measuring vehicle miles traveled can help cities reach climate, equity, health, and sustainability goals. Let’s use #SaludTues on November 5, 2019, to tweet about ...

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14 Things Latinos Should Know About the 2020 Census


census-2020-latinos-should-know-door-to-door

How important is the 2020 Census? Well, the results will determine political power, representation in Congress, and funding for schools, hospitals, roads, and social services in your community for the next 10 years. Here are some Q&As that emphasize the need to count Latinos and all people! 1. Why Is There a Census? The U.S. Constitution requires the government count everyone living in the country regardless of race, ethnicity, or citizenship status. The Census Act of 1790 created the first census. The government has conducted it every 10 years since to determine a population count, not a citizenship count. “The data collected affect our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental and private sector resources for all ...

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