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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

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 fatalities rose 10.5% from 2020 to 2021, a year after rising 24.5% ...

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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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A.J. Williams: Helping Police, Educators Team Up for Regional Handle With Care Program


Handle With Care Fort Worth

As a child, A.J. Williams was exposed to domestic violence. Now a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, Williams is making sure children like him are getting the support they need in school through the Handle With Care program, where police notify schools when they encounter children at a traumatic scene, so schools can provide support the next day. After COVID-19 derailed an idea to team up Fort Worth police and schools for a local Handle With Care program, Williams reinitiated plans with help from a Handle With Care action pack from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. He trained police and school leaders about the program and brought regional education leaders to the table who helped create a region-wide notification system. Now police departments and schools in the ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat: How Schools and Police Can Partner to Support Students Exposed to Trauma


handle with care students exposed to trauma tweetchat 2022

Children exposed to violence, crime, or abuse still go to school the next day. They may be forced to skip homework, sleep, and breakfast. They may carry the burden of toxic stress that can interfere with their behavior and grades. However, schools are not aware. Fortunately, the “Handle With Care” program enables police to notify school districts when they encounter a child at a traumatic scene, so school personnel and mental health partners can provide appropriate trauma-sensitive interventions. Let’s use #SaludTues on May 3, 2022, to tweet about steps schools, communities, and healthcare professionals can start a Handle With Care program and take steps to become more trauma-sensitive. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “How Schools and Police Can Partner to Support ...

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Watch Webinar: How to Work with Local Leaders to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis



Decades of explicit and implicit racism in social, economic, and political systems have led to inequitable outcomes in communities of color with heavy burdens of toxic stress, disease, and premature death. That’s why leaders across the country are adopting formal resolutions to declare racism a public health crisis and committing to specific policy changes. We at Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio created to an action pack to help. On March 17, 2022, we are cohosting a webinar, “How to Work with Local Leaders to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis” with the Network for Public Health Law to share resources in our action pack to help you connect with local advocates of color, draft a resolution, start a conversation with local leaders, and build support for a ...

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Understanding Critical Race Theory


critical race theory

Discussing racial equity and anti-racism can result in some backlash because of the great divide in our country regarding if and how to examine structural racism in American history and institutions. For example, in September 2020, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning federal contractors from addressing “divisive concepts” and “harmful ideologies” related to racial/ethnic and gender discrimination in employee trainings. Although a federal judge temporarily blocked the executive order and President Joe Biden revoked it on his first day in office in January 2021, the nation was already divided on the concepts of systemic racism, including critical race theory, a critical theory that aims to examine and critique society. Thus, it is important to ...

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