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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

Battling Obesity in America

The problem of obesity in America is a subject of a new CBS Evening News series, "Where America Stands," which looks at problems the nation faces as it enters a new decade. The report tells about the challenges of obesity -- two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years -- and features tips and potential solutions. A Latino family is highlighted in CBS' coverage. In Baldwin Park, Calif., which has six fast-food restaurants for every one that sells fresh produce, Connie Gonzalez and her mother Maria volunteer with the program Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, which pushed for a ban on new drive-thru restaurants. Connie Gonzalez helped convince the school board to make salad bars a staple, and 100-minutes of weekly ...

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Diabetes on the Rise in Older Mexican Americans

The percentage of Mexican Americans with type 2 diabetes, the kind closely linked to obesity, has nearly doubled since 1993, according to new research reported by Reuters. A decline in diabetes-related complications in the overall U.S. diabetic population hasn't also occurred in Mexican Americans ages 75 and up, the study found. Mexican Americans generally have a greater risk of diabetes that whites, but age trends in this population group have been largely unstudied. To investigate trends in older Mexican Americans, the researchers looked at data from a community-based study of Mexican Americans ages 75 and older living in the southwestern U.S. Their analysis included 1,132 men and women who were surveyed between 1993 and 1994, and another group of 902 surveyed in 2004 and ...

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San Antonio School Starts Wellness Campaign

After watching some middle-schoolers use soda machines to buy “lunch,” Principal Dr. John Kennedy decided that changes were needed at St. Anthony Catholic School in the predominantly Latino city of San Antonio, Texas. He was approached by some parents who also were interested in addressing student health, and the Mi Vida (My Life) wellness campaign was born. Mi Vida is an acronym for a short poem they wrote: My life includes Veggies, fruits & fun in meals with everyone, daily walks or climbing trees, and learning at St. Anthony’s! The motto of Mi Vida is “Play Often. Eat Well.” “The paths toward healthy minds, bodies, and spirit are interconnected, and achieving this overall health is part of our community goals at St. Anthony’s,” said Dr. Kennedy. ...

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Lessons Learned on Increasing Physical Activity in Special Populations (Including Latinos)

The Active Living by Design program, community action model and lessons learned from 15 grantee communities are featured in a supplement of the December 2009 edition of the The American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The practice-based special issue describes community partnerships representing a range of lead agencies with emphasis on increasing physical activity in special populations, including Latinos. There are examples of the process of planning and implementing comprehensive approaches to increase community levels of physical activity, including how to engage partners, secure resources, increase community participation, design policy and environment interventions, increase political or community support, address challenges or minimize barriers, and keep the momentum going ...

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OMG! IHPR/GrlScouts txtng 2 get Latina grls 2 xrciz

Through teen-friendly text messaging and Girl Scouts, a new partnership led by the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio aims to increase fitness among Latina girls. The “Physical Activity Partnership for Girls” teams local universities with community groups to try to boost activity and reduce sedentary behaviors among Latinas ages 11-14 in San Antonio through text messaging, Girl Scout troop activities and community outreach. “We think using ‘kid-popular’ technology and the partnership of academics, community leaders and Girl Scouts will increase the activity of Latina girls, who have higher obesity rates than other youths,” said Dr. Deborah Parra-Medina, an IHPR researcher who directs the partnership. The IHPR ...

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News: Latino Health Disparities

Check out the latest on health disparities stories, news and funding in the Winter 2009 E-newsletter from the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, the team behind SaludToday. The newsletter features: The story behind SaludToday Using texting to promote fitness among Latina girls  A new "hub" for Latino cancer health disparities research A new guide to help Latinos quit smoking Research funding opportunties Health disparities events Health disparities resources For this and much more, check out our new ...

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Recommendations to Improve Access to Healthy Food, Activity in Texas

Too many children in Texas do not know where their next meal is coming from, and, when food is available, it is too often junk food with little or no nutritional value. So Texans Care for Children has released a new report, “Nourishing Texas Children: Preventing the Twin Challenges of Childhood Hunger and Obesity,” which recommends five strategies to improve access to nutritious food and opportunities for physical activity. The recommendations are: 1. Increase the availability of healthy, affordable food in “food deserts.” 2. Improve nutrition and physical activity in schools and child care environments. 3. Promote breastfeeding. 4. Increase participation in and infrastructure to deliver existing nutrition programs. 5. Establish stronger linkages between farmers and ...

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Story: Latina Mom Sets Example for Family’s Health

A funny thing happened when Rosa, Latino mother of four in Chicago, parted ways with a beloved family member — the living room sofa, where she had let "life pass" her by so many times. She got off the couch and got healthy. Three years ago, she forced herself to leave the couch and attend a local nutrition class. That act literally changed her life. Rosa’s nutrition teacher helped put together a healthy eating plan for her and her kids. Early on, even Rosa resisted eating some healthy foods and thought her children felt the same way. But she knew no one in her home would ever eat the new foods on her food plan if she didn’t try them first. She knew she had to lead by example. Rosa eventually lost 60 pounds, and her children got a lot healthier, too. Read more stories ...

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Report: Obesity Rates Higher in Southern U.S.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity has released a fact sheet on Southern obesity that shows disproportionately higher rates of childhood obesity here compared to the rest of the U.S. The eight states with the highest percentages of overweight or obese children are all in the South. In every Southern state except Oklahoma, at least 30 percent of children are overweight or obese (see map). Income, race and ethnicity and education are part of the problem. At each level of income, African American and Latino children were in worse health than whites. And white boys born in 2000 have a 27 percent risk of being diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetimes, while African American and Latino boys have a 40 and 45 percent lifetime risk, ...

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