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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

What Are the Risk and Protective Factors for Violent Child Death?


violent child death is a problem in America

Gun violence and traffic crashes may seem like unpredictable events. But they are not random. They are systematic. Data reveal trends and patterns in gun violence and traffic crashes that can help us identify risk factors and protective factors. This is especially important for addressing violent child deaths. So what do the data show? Join Salud America! as we explore data on risk factors as part of our four-part series on violent child death. Read the Series Overview and Part 1. Nothing is as Random as You Think Very little is random when it comes to our health and length of life. Rather, trends in health outcomes point to various individual, social, and environmental factors that either contribute to or safeguard against health-related problems. Although often not ...

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The U.S. Has a Violent Child Death Problem


violent child death is a problem in America

Thanks to vaccinations, antibiotics, and medical treatment, death from infectious disease has declined drastically among children in high-income countries. But violent death is a serious threat to children in the United States. Here, guns and traffic crashes are the top killers of youth aged 1-19. Worse, these violent child deaths have increased in recent years. We can’t explain away all traffic crashes on individual behavior. We also can’t explain away all firearm incidents on individual behavior. These are systemic problems that require systemic solutions. Salud America! is exploring the scope of violent child death as part of its four-part series on public health approaches to addressing child deaths from guns and traffic crashes. The State of Child Traffic ...

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186 People Endorsed Our Comment: Address Policies that Perpetuate ‘Good,’ ‘Bad’ Neighborhoods


Address Policies that Perpetuate ‘Good,’ ‘Bad’ Neighborhoods and Schools

We asked for your help to speak up for equitable policies so that everyone has a fair, just opportunity to be their healthiest, and 186 people responded. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has nominated an ad hoc committee to analyze federal policies that contribute to preventable and unfair health outcomes in America, particularly among Latinos and other racial/ethnic minority populations. The committee wanted personal and/or professional feedback by Sept. 30, 2022, on: Examples of federal policies that create and/or contribute to racial/ethnic health inequities Examples of policies that promote racial/ethnic health equity The most important considerations when prioritizing action regarding federal policies to advance racial and ethnic ...

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From Guns to Roads: We Need a Public Health Approach to America’s Violent Child Death Problem


Violent child death is a problem in America

Did you know guns and traffic crashes are the leading causes of death for youth ages 1-19? These deaths are problematic and unacceptable for four key reasons: These child deaths are unnatural and violent. Child deaths from guns and traffic crashes have risen since 2013, with spikes in both in 2020. Traffic and firearm death rates among American youth are higher than other high-income countries. These violent deaths are preventable. Traffic and gun violence are not criminal justice issues, they are public health issues. Preventing violent child deaths from traffic crashes and firearms requires a comprehensive and multi-layered public health approach to: Define and monitor the problem Identify risk and protective factors Develop prevention strategies ...

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Report: The Deadliest Cities for People Walking Are Now Even More Dangerous


dangerous by design street

Although driving declined in 2020, U.S. pedestrian deaths increased, especially among Latinos and other people of color, according to the new Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. Pedestrian deaths have risen each year since 2009 – up 62% overall since then. Why? Roads in America are designed and funded primarily to quickly move people driving. Also, vehicles have been getting larger and more powerful. But speed comes at the expense of safety. Although transportation planners, engineers, and agencies claim to seek simultaneous goals of speed and safety, these two goals are incompatible, signified by the rising trend in pedestrian deaths. “States must use the enormous freedom and flexibility of federal ...

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16,000+ People Call to Update ‘Dangerous’ Federal Vehicle Safety Ratings


16,000+ People Call to Update ‘Dangerous’ Federal Vehicle Safety Ratings

More than 16,000 concerned Americans sent public comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urging them to make changes to their vehicle safety rating system, known as the New Car Assessment Program. Many organizations, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), America Walks, and Families for Safe Streets enabled their members to submit comments. Our team at Salud America! also developed a model comment asking NHTSA for a vehicle rating system that accurately reflects the dangers vehicles pose to pedestrians, bikers, and others outside the vehicle. After all, more Americans died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 than any other year since 2005, and the growing size and weight of vehicles is a contributor. “Driving ...

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Tell NASEM: Add Urban Planning Scholars to New Committee on Policies Impacting Health Equity


Add Urban Planning Scholars to New Committee on Health Equity Policy

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has nominated an ad hoc committee to review federal policies that contribute to racial/ethnic health inequities, and recommend the most effective, promising approaches to equitably change policies. NASEM is seeking public comment on its nominees for the committee through June 20, 2022. The nominees are strong, diverse health equity experts. But none have experience in urban planning, housing, or transportation – some of the most critical social determinants of health. Use the following Salud America! model comment to tell NASEM to add committee members who are scholars in the intersection between urban planning and social determinants of health to improve their ability to make equitable policy ...

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Did Americans Suddenly Become Worse Drivers or Are Megacars Spiking Traffic Fatalities?



Driving is a daily danger to American life. And it is getting more dangerous. More Americans died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 than any other year since 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, pedestrian fatalities are up 13% and bicyclist fatalities are up 5% compared to 2020. These are lower rates than the European Union, which has seen traffic fatalities decrease since 2019. What is happening on American roads? Are drivers becoming worse? Are the sizing size of SUVs and passenger trucks – “megacars” – responsible? What about vehicle and road safety? Let’s explore the facts to find an answer. Drivers and Traffic Fatalities U.S. traffic fatality rate rose 10.5% from 2020 to 2021, a year after rising ...

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Comment: Tell Government to Consider People Walking in Vehicle Safety Rating System


Source Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

With roads designed to favor cars and the growing size of megacars – SUVs and passenger trucks – it’s no surprise traffic fatalities are on the rise among drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. This makes vehicle safety a high priority. But did you know that the U.S. vehicle safety rating system doesn’t consider people outside the vehicle? Now is your chance to tell the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) to modify their vehicle safety rating system. Submit the following Salud America! model comment to tell NHTSA you want a vehicle rating system that accurately reflects the dangers vehicles pose to pedestrians, bikers, and others outside the vehicle.  Comments are due June 8, 2022. COMMENT BY JUNE ...

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