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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

9 Big Questions as California Starts to Screen Kids for Trauma, ACEs


California Starts to Screen Kids for Trauma, ACEs

Early childhood adversity like abuse and divorce is a root cause of many of the greatest public health challenges we face today. But doctors don’t even screen children for exposure to adversity. That’s changing in California, thanks to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and other child advocates. As of Jan. 1, 2020, almost 100,000 physicians in 8,800 clinics will be reimbursed for routinely screening Medi-Cal patients for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), in an effort California hopes will help prevent ongoing ACEs-related stress and disease. Here are nine big questions surrounding the change. 1. What Is Childhood Adversity (ACEs) and its Impact? Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include abuse, neglect, divorce, parental incarceration, parental mental illness, etc. These ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 2/18: Shifting from Car-Centric Thinking to People-First Thinking



Many of our transportation woes are due to lack of realistic options. American cities have largely designed streets for speeding vehicles rather than for people walking, biking or taking the bus, resulting in high rates of traffic fatalities and injuries; air, water, and land pollution; and limited access to destinations needed to stay healthy and climb the economic ladder. Although people-first design has numerous social, environmental, health, and economic benefits; current car-centric policies and practices undermine these efforts. It’s time to better measure and prioritize people-first policies, practices, and projects. Let’s use #SaludTues on February 18, 2020, to tweet about how to shift from car-centric thinking to people-first thinking. WHAT: #SaludTues ...

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City Leader Uses ‘Omnibus’ to Power Up Transit and Walkability in Richmond, Virginia


Addison addressing crowd at Vision Zero event in October 2017

“I feel like my life is threatened at each intersection.” That is what Andreas Addison said about walking the streets and relying on mass transit during his #NoCarNovember experiences in Richmond, Va., where he is a city council member. He wanted safer streets and more frequent transit for his constituents. So Addison found two models he liked─a D.C. city leader’s omnibus bill (one that combines several measures into one package) for better transit, more walkability, and less car reliance, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s work to make campus safer for pedestrians. Addison then began working on an omnibus bill of his own to create a safer environment for people walking, biking, and taking the bus in Richmond. Unfair Social and Health Outcomes in Richmond Life ...

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5 Ways to Build Healthier Food Systems


Sustainable food systems

The future of humanity depends on building healthier food systems. Why? Because our current food and farming systems make us sick in these ways: Unhealthy working conditions Contaminants in the water, soil, or air Specific foods are unsafe for consumption Unhealthy diets Lack of access to adequate, acceptable food That is why the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food) published a report to identify five leverage points for building healthier food systems. 1. Promote Food Systems Thinking It’s time to overcome political and scientific silos. It’s time to reconnect people with the realities of the food on their plates. The way food impacts health isn’t an isolated event. We need to promote “food system thinking” ...

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5 Ways Our Current Food Systems Make Us Sick


5 Ways Our Current Food Systems Make Us Sick

Our food systems affect our health in good and bad ways. For example, some of the most severe health impacts of food systems trace back to some of the core industrial food and farming practices. These include chemical-intensive agriculture, intensive livestock production, and mass production and marketing of processed foods. That is why the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food) published a report to identify five ways our current food systems make us sick, seven challenges to understanding and addressing them, and five leverage points for building healthier food systems. Here are five ways our current food system makes us sick: 1. People Get Sick Because They Work in Unhealthy Conditions Pesticides are responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 1/28: Elevating Plant-Based Food Systems


Plant based food systems

What we choose to eat affects everything. However, our current food system is unhealthy and unsustainable, leaving us with options that pollute our air and water, consume large amounts of energy, and contribute to chronic disease and premature death, all while leaving millions undernourished. Transitioning away from an animal-based system to a plant-based system, for example, has numerous social, environmental, economic, and individual health benefits. Let’s use #SaludTues on January 28, 2020, to tweet about how you can raise awareness about and push for policies to support healthy food systems. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “Elevating Plant-Based Food Systems” TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. ET Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag #SaludTues HOST: ...

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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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