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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

Guidebook: Improving Public Transit and Active Transportation Integration



Although public transit is far safer than driving, the walk or bike to a transit stop can be hazardous. To grow transit ridership and increase the people-moving capacity of a roadway, it is critical to include active transportation as an integral element of all transit infrastructure and operations. That’s why The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), based in Toronto, recently released its new guidebook on that very subject. “Transit operates most effectively when planned and built in close connection to walking and cycling facilities,” the guidebook states. It highlights some of the most innovative policy strategies, implimaination planning, infrastructure, and programming that transit agencies have been employed — seeking to better coordinate and improve active ...

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Transportation Advocacy Group Conducts Transit Equity Analysis


transit equity for family health

Every segment of American society—individuals, families, communities, and businesses—benefits from public transit. However, there is a lack of equity in these services. Latinos, for example, often report bus routes are unreliable, infrequent, or even unsafe, contributing to disparities in health and wealth, according to a Salud America! Research Review. An equitable transit network for Latino and all families starts with an equity analysis. That’s why transportation advocacy group, LINK Houston, conducted its  Equity in Transit 2018 Report. They found that nearly one million residents in Houston, Texas (44.5% Latino) are living in areas with high-transit needs, but do not have access to frequent weekday, weekend, and evening services. Do you know who has access to ...

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Report: Demand Is Rising for Walkable Urban Places



Walkable urban places correlate with economic, social equity, and environmental benefits, according to a new report. The new report, Foot Traffic Ahead 2019, ranks the amount and characteristics of walkable urban places in the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, just 0.04-1.2% of land in these cities counts as walkable urban places. The new report explores the reasons for this deficiency and outlines how cities can stimulate more walkable urbanism and its many benefits. “U.S. metros where the public and private sectors work together to adapt and deliver increased supply of walkable urban places will be the economic and social justice winners of the next generation,” according to the Foot Traffic Ahead report, released in June 2019 by Smart Growth ...

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District in San Antonio to Open Health Clinic for Students, Families



Last week, San Antonio’s (64% Latino) Southside Independent School District dedicated the Susan Hall Community Health Clinic, which will offer care to students, families, staff, and other district members. This is a big deal for health in the South Side of San Antonio, where residents live 15-20 years less than those on the North Side, according to the 2016 Bexar County Community Health Needs Assessment. Southside ISD has been in talks with University Health Systems (UHS) to run the clinic and is expected to vote on an agreement at its July 18 board meeting. Health Needs on South Side Many low-income families on the South Side lack access health care and health-promotion opportunities: 12.41% of households don’t have a vehicle, compared to 5.49% in Texas; 30.39% of ...

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Texas Adopts Goal to End Traffic Deaths by 2050


Texas streets, homes and businesses.

At least one person has been killed in a traffic crash in Texas every day since Nov. 7, 2000. That’s why Vision Zero Texas has enabled advocates to push Texas leaders, including a letter-writing campaign (with Salud America! participation) and in-person advocacy, for strategies to improve road safety and set a goal to have zero deaths on state roads. The efforts are paying off. In May 2019, the Texas Transportation Commission voted to adopt a goal of reducing traffic fatalities on the state’s roadways to zero by the year 2050! Traffic Deaths in Texas Nearly 3,600 people died on Texas roads in 2018. Why? Human factors, like distracted driving and speeding, vehicle factors, like breaks and headlights, and roadway factors, like access points and pedestrian crossings. ...

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Ohio Approves New Social and Emotional Learning Standards in Schools!


social and emotional learning school classroom kids

The Ohio State School Board this week approved social and emotional learning (SEL) standards to apply to students in K-12─and hundreds of Ohio educators and Salud America! members submitted comments to help refine those standards. Ohio now is one of only eight states with K-12 SEL standards. These standards aim to help students build emotional awareness, empathy, strong relationships, and responsible decision-making. How did this big change happen? What role did Salud America! and the public have? The Growth of SEL in Ohio Schools Students who get support for social and emotional learning in schools do better academically, socially, behaviorally, and mentally, research shows. SEL is part of a larger plan in Ohio (3.8% Latino) to prepare all students for life after high ...

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Future Research, Programming Efforts Should Focus on Latino Families’ Strengths



Early childhood experiences impact early-stage development, lifelong health, and overall wellbeing. There is an urgent need to conduct research on the early home experiences of Latino children, according to a new report from the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families. Current research focuses more on families’ risk factors and deficits, rather than on protective factors and strengths. Moreover, much of the research that concentrates on early home environments to date has studied white, middle-class families. Little is known about how cultural norms, beliefs, values and expectations are embedded in Latino parenting and how Latino parenting practices promote development and cognitive and social competence. The National Research Center on Hispanic Children ...

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City Health Dashboard Provides New Innovative Features



Just two years after launching, the City Health Dashboard is adding new features to dig deeper into neighborhood- and city-specific data to guide local solutions to local health issues. Most data on urban areas focuses on the county, state, or national levels. The City Health Dashboard , however, pulls together local data from multiple sources to provide cities with a one-stop, regularly refreshed data center to help identify local gaps in opportunity and support decision-making to address factors that shape health. Now the Dashboard is adding new features and showcasing them at a webinar on June 5. What’s New? In June, the City Health Dashboard is giving cities additional data and new innovative features. The new data allow local leaders to dig deeper into neighborhood- ...

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New York Approves America’s First Congestion Pricing Policy



After more than 10 years of advocacy, New York became the first US state to approve a plan to charge drivers to enter highly trafficked areas during peak times, known as congestion pricing. International metropolitan areas, such as London and Stockholm, have implemented similar fees for over a decade. It took a transportation crisis in midtown Manhattan—where congestion slowed drivers to nearly a walking pace—for elected officials to act on congestion pricing. The fees will go into effect by 2021 and will be dedicated to improving public transit. Hidden Costs The cumulative cost to drive a car is often the second largest household expense—which can be particularly burdensome for Latino families who are burdened by high housing costs and lack of safe, reliable ...

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