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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

Open Ciclismo: Crowdsourced Map of Biking in San Antonio



You can share the best—or worst—places to bike in San Antonio, thanks to a new bilingual crowdsourced map. The Open Ciclismo map, launched in October 2017 in English and Spanish by the local online news source the Rivard Report and Bike San Antonio, enables people to identify biking problems, issues, and solutions across San Antonio (63.7% Latino). You can report a public dangerous intersection, suggest a bicycling improvement, or share safe places to ride. Just indicate the location, add a description, and upload or share a video. "By crowdsourcing this data and riders’ experiences, we aim to create up-to-date awareness of hotspots for cycling safety, crime, and infrastructure improvements—holding city officials accountable for safe cycling and pedestrian life in San ...

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Report: Latino Kids are Left Out of Census Count



Latinos are the nation's second-largest population group—yet they continue to be dramatically undercounted. More than 400,000 Latino children younger than 4 were not counted in the 2010 U.S. Census, according to a recent report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. With the 2020 Census looming, an accurate count of Latinos is critical to ensure they get the right number of representatives in government and a fair share of funding for educational programs, healthcare, and law enforcement, as well as new schools and roads. The U.S. Census Count The U.S. Census Bureau counts every resident in the U.S. every 10 years, per Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The data ...

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Artist’s Fake Ads Save Historic Streetcars in Border City



The streetcar is back along the Texas-Mexico border, thanks to a Latino man's brilliant "fake" ad campaign. Peter Svarzbein, an El Paso native, loved how a historic international streetcar system used to connect downtown El Paso, Texas (82.2% Latino) to downtown Cuidad Juárez, Mexico. But it closed in 1974. Today many in El Paso lack public transportation to reach places they need to go, which harms their health, educational, and employment opportunities, and the economy. So Svarzbein created a fictional, yet powerful ad campaign to simulate the return of El Paso's border-crossing streetcar for his graduate thesis project at New York's School for Visual Arts. Svarzbein's El Paso Transnational Trolley Project sparked enough curiosity and enthusiasm to create a real ...

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Latinas and the Future Health of the U.S.



There is a near-perfect way to predict a child's educational and health future. A mother's education. Sadly, Latinas have the lowest high school graduation rates and some of the lowest college completion rates of all women, according to a new report. The report, Fulfilling America’s Future: Latinas in the U.S., 2015, is an exploration of the state of Latinas by Patricia Gándara, research professor and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, and the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics. "As a group, Latinas begin school significantly behind other females and without adequate resources and supports, they are never able to catch up to their peers," according to the report. So, how can Latinas catch up? The State of U.S. Latinas One in five ...

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Teachers Connect Children with Nature One Day a Week


Outdoor Education Source Andy Manis For the State Journal

What happened when 10 teachers in Wisconsin committed to take their elementary students outside one day a week to explore and play in nature? The students studied the natural world, learned other lessons, and got physical activity outside. Successful outdoor education! "Playing outside is different socially, emotionally and physically than what happens in the classroom," one of the teachers told the the Wisconsin State Journal. Why Is Outdoor Education Good for Kids? Outdoor teaching and recess during school can improve students' learning, and much more. It can boost physical, mental, and emotional health, particularly for Latino kids who don't get as much time for physical activity during the school day. It also can foster a desire to conserve and preserve green space ...

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2017 Community Change Micro Grants Opportunity



Many families aren't as active as they would like to be because they lack safe places to walk, bike and play. In fact, the U.S. is failing five of nine factors that reflect walking and walkable communities. Latinos in particular face barriers to walk, which negatively impacts physical and mental health, as well as economic prosperity. Are you interested in helping to make walking more commonplace for families in your community? Micro Grants; America Walks is hosting a round of micro grants for up to $1500 to fund or start smaller-scale, low-cost projects and programs. The goal is to increase the prevalence of walking, expand the diversity of people and organizations working to advance walkability, and help to make walking safer, easier, and more fun for all community ...

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Rocio Muñoz Embeds School Health Navigators for Latino Parents



Latinos face many barriers to health care, including language differences; complex and confusing documents and processes; lack of knowledge of available services; unreliable transportation; and fear of using government services. One way to increase health equity among Latinos is to remove these barriers. Rocio Muñoz, community health navigator at Benton County Health Department (BCHD), in partnership with the school district, worked to embed bilingual, bicultural health navigators into elementary schools in Corvallis, Ore. (7.4% Latino), to address these identified barriers. The partnership resulted in a model where health navigators are placed in schools to coordinate with students, parents and teachers regarding students’ health records in order to boost access to health ...

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Free Training Helps Early Childcare Providers Grow Healthy Kids



Dr. Kathy Fletcher knows the first three years of a child’s life are critical for preparing kids to grow and mature into healthy and productive students and adults. But what if early childcare providers don’t know how to make it happen? Fletcher, President and CEO of Voices for Children of San Antonio, worried that these providers—who only need a high-school education to be on the job—are eager to help children success, but don’t always have the tools to give local kids the appropriate developmental care and services they need during their formative years to promote healthy development. At least one quarter of children birth to five are in some form of organized out-of-home child care. Investing in professional development for early childhood providers can reduce the ...

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Using ‘ParkScore’ to Bring Latinos Closer to Parks



Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-mile walk of a park. Sadly, Latino kids tend to lack safe, accessible places to play, which prevents them from getting the physical activity they need for healthy minds and bodies. That's why the Trust for Public Land created the ParkScore. What is a ParkScore? ParkScore assesses a city's park system. It also ranks the nation's 100 most populated cities by park access, park size, and facilities and investment. Minneapolis has the best park score. Check out the many reasons why Minneapolis has such a good score. Laredo, a 95% Latino city in South Texas, comes in 93rd. Here's the full list of ranked cities. City officials can use the ParkScore to guide investment in parks and promote equitable distribution in ...

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