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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

Street Vendors Left Out of Reopening Plans amid Coronavirus


Street Vendors

Cities are increasingly recognizing the value of streets as car-less public space. For example, due to a spike in demand for outdoor space early in the coronavirus pandemic, cities around the world began closing streets to vehicles to give people walking and biking more space. More recently, cities are closing streets to vehicles to give restaurants and shops space to serve customers outdoors—in parking spaces, on sidewalks, and on streets. However, street vendors, many of whom are Latinos and immigrants with no paid sick leave and a history of fighting to serve these very spaces, are being left out of reopening plans. “They’ve been so exposed through the nature of their work and the cruelty of our society that has forced them out of the formal economy,” Megan Macareg ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 5/26: How to Equitably Share Streeets During COVID-19


Share the Streets Hoboken

Medical and public health experts agree that being active outside is crucial to maintaining physical and mental health. However, overcrowding in parks, sidewalks, and on trails can become a serious issue during COVID-19. Pedestrian safety is also a serious issue because although vehicle travel is down, crashes and fatalities are up. Cities across the world are responding by temporarily reallocating street space for people walking, biking, rolling, and skating to practice physical distancing from others. Everyone deserves safe places to be physically active and safe routes to get to essential destinations. Let’s use #SaludTues on May 26, 2020, to tweet about the importance of equitably sharing streets during a crisis problem.   WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “How to ...

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This Latina Wants Leaders to Prioritize Childcare When Reopening after Lockdown



Without childcare, going back to work after the coronavirus lockdown is not an option for many families. But many city and state leaders are overlooking this childcare dilemma as they push to reopen businesses, even while schools remain closed amid the pandemic. That’s why Melinda Lopez is speaking up. Rhode Island, where Lopez lives, began reopening businesses on May 9. But childcare sites have to remain closed through May 30. Beyond this three-week-lag, when childcare centers do reopen, they will take fewer kids. Many moms will still be left without a spot for their child. “I’m concerned about what our women in our communities are going to do,” said Lopez, an Education Strategies Specialist with Highlander Institute, Early Childhood Adjunct Instructor at Rhode ...

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7 Reasons to Push for Paid Sick Leave Policies for During and Post-Pandemic


paid sick leave for workers

Without paid sick leave, too many Latinos are forced to choose between financial security and health. After all, just a few days of lost pay due to illness is the same as losing an entire month’s worth of groceries for some families, which fare worse during a pandemic like COVID-19. “For a typical Latino family without paid sick days, losing an average of 3.3 days due to sickness is equivalent to a family’s entire monthly health care budget or its monthly grocery budget,” according to a joint fact sheet from UnidosUS and National Partnership for Women & Families. This situation won’t just fix itself after the pandemic, either. “Lives are at stake when policies are not put in place from the top down to prevent the spread of disease or create healthy living ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 5/19: Why Paid Sick Leave Policies Are So Important


Paid sick leave

Half of workers with the lowest wages and more than half of Latinos are unable to earn a single paid sick day through their jobs. Without paid sick leave, these workers are forced to choose between the financial consequences of staying home without pay and the health risks of both ignoring health problems and exposing others to contagious disease. Afterall, just a few days of lost pay due to illness is the same as losing an entire month’s grocery budget for some families. Workers everywhere should be able to earn paid sick leave, particularly as our country focuses on economic recovery after COVID-19. Join #SaludTues on May 19, 2020, at 1:00 PM EST to tweet about why it is so important to for all workers to be able to earn paid sick leave. WHAT: #SaludTuesTweetchat: ...

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We Need Healthier Communities to Overcome COVID-19


Edmonds Washington Share Streets

Preparing for and overcoming any disaster, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, requires healthy and resilient communities. However, after age, obesity is the biggest risk factor for being hospitalized with COVID-19. And the U.S. has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, with drastic disparities among racial/ethnic groups, including the highest rates among Latinos. To beat COVID-19, we need healthier communities that prevent obesity and leaders who prioritize equitable access to healthy food, housing, and safe spaces to walk and bike instead of space for cars. “We in the U.S. have not always identified obesity as a disease, and some people think it’s a lifestyle choice. But it’s not,” said Dr. Matthew Hutter, director of the Weight Center at Massachusetts ...

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How Advocates Campaigned for 1st Protected Bike Lane Law


advocating for protected bike lanes

Nathanael Fillmore felt his life was in danger every time he rode his bike on unsafe streets to his job as a computer scientist in Cambridge, Mass. (9.2% Latino). So he took action. Fillmore helped launch the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group, and they eventually pushed Cambridge to become the first U.S. city with a municipal law mandating construction of a network of permanent, protected bike lanes on local roads. They did it in three big steps: Build public support on an issues through community organizing Translate public support into political support Use political support to pass a law “Our focus was to work with elected officials to pass legal binding policy to change structural environment among staff and get a network of protected bike lanes built out,” ...

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4 Big Questions on the Rise of Child Abuse During Coronavirus


child abuse during school closures

During this global coronavirus pandemic that has shut down businesses and schools and ushered in social distancing, experts worry more children are suffering from abuse. Researchers say this happens in times of stress. Child abuse rose in the Great Recession. “I believe we’re going to see the number of child abuse cases increase rapidly but child abuse reports are going to decrease exponentially,” Megan Hedges, family advocate for the Child Advocacy Center of Fredrick County, told the Frederick News-Post. “This is going to be detrimental to many of the children in our community because we know the abuse is not stopping, in fact the abuse may be getting worse.” 1. Why Could Child Abuse Rise? Financial distress, unemployment, domestic violence, and social isolation are big ...

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Addressing the Spike in Domestic Violence amid Coronavius for Latinas and All Women


Addressing the Spike in Domestic Violence amid Coronavius for Latinas

Many U.S. homes are not the safe havens we may think. In fact, with families locked down to slow COVID-19, police say domestic violence cases have risen up to 35% in recent days, NBC reports. Local and state leaders need to address the immediate needs of these victims. They also need to think about long-term solutions to reduce disparities in income and wealth accumulation, which COVID-19 is exacerbating, particularly among Latinas. “Women — and it is predominantly women who are victimized — are confined to isolated homes with abusive partners whose coercive and physically violent tendencies are enabled and further inflamed by economic stressors [due to coronavirus],” according to Natasha Lennard with The Intercept. If you or someone you know needs help, call the ...

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