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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

#SaludTues Tweetchat 6/4: Moving Beyond Social Needs to Address Social Determinants of Health



Inequities in health arise from social and structural inequities and the policies, laws, and culture that keep them in place. To address inequities that affect health, it is important to make the distinction between individual-level (midstream) interventions to address “social needs,” and community-level (upstream) interventions to address “social determinants.” Individual-level efforts to address social needs are necessary, but not enough. Characterizing these interventions as efforts to address social determinants of health conveys a false sense of progress. "If we, even inadvertently, imply that the social determinants of health can be solved by offering Uber rides to individual patients or by deploying community health navigators, it will be challenging, if not ...

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How Takoma Park is Addressing Institutionalized Racism



In 2017, Takoma Park adopted a racial equity initiative to begin addressing institutionalized racism. Latinos and people of color face numerous obstacles to opportunity across the lifespan due to racial bias in policies, institutions, and systems, which further contribute to health inequity. Housing instability, for example is linked to poor health outcomes. More Latinos (56.9%) are burdened by housing costs than Whites (46.8%), meaning they have little money left over for health- and wealth-promoting assets, accord to a Salud America! research review. Leaders in Takoma Park, Maryland (14% Latino) wanted to determine whether policies—even those that are seemingly neutral—were contributing to racial inequities. Like fiscal and environmental impact statements, the city began ...

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D.C. Tests Bus-Only Lane on 2 Super-Busy Streets


Everett pop-up bus lane Source TransitCenter

America’s capital is piloting a four-month bus lane project to encourage more commuters to ride the bus. Currently, buses with popular downtown routes are stuck in congestion with everyone else. However, transportation professionals in Washington, D.C. (10.7% Latino) hope to change that fact by dedicating one lane to the public during rush hour. Transportation Truths There are at least half a dozen truths to know about transportation: Vehicles pollute our cities. Vehicle traffic injuries are the leading cause of injury, death for children and young adults ages 5-24, comprising about 20% of all deaths. Crashes cost over $200 billion annually, which includes medical costs, congestion, property damage, and workplace as well as household productivity loss. Latinos and ...

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#SaludTues 5/14: State of Latino Housing, Transportation & Green Space


5_14 Tweetchat_ Housing, Transportation Greenspace (1)

Where you live matters for health. However, Latinos face unaffordable housing, unreliable public transportation, and a lack of green space, which limits access to health-promoting assets. To drive solutions, Salud America! will unveil a new research review, “The State of Latino Housing, Transportation, and Green Space,” at the #SaludTues Tweetchat at 1 p.m. ET May 14, 2019. The new research review will cover the latest data on how differences in housing, transportation, green space opportunities contribute to health inequities among Latinos. The review also highlights strategies and policies to improve neighborhood health equity, where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to achieve the best health possible. Join #SaludTues at 1 p.m. ET May 14, 2019, to tweet about the ...

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Largest Land Owner in Atlanta Opens Green Space to the Public


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Children and families in underserved communities have limited to access to green spaces and parks. However, one of the highest costs for creating a park is land acquisition. So, the largest land and property owner in Atlanta (4.6% Latino) —Atlanta Public Schools—is launching a new pilot program to open their green spaces to the public outside of operating hours. Atlanta’s Need for Parks The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit, ranks the largest 100 cities in the U.S. by how well those municipalities are meeting the public need for parks. Atlanta ranks 43rd on that list. Only two-thirds of the population live within a ten-minute walk of a public park. In Minneapolis and Minnesota, however, 97% of the population can reach a park in a ten-minute walk. Fewer ...

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Phoenix Children’s Hospital: Creating a Culture of Bike Safety for Latino and All Kids


Injury prevention specialist, Juan Tarango created a six-week, hands-on bike safety course for fourth grade students in Phoenix, AZ.

Juan Tarango of Tempe, Arizona, has been an avid cyclist for over 30 years. For him, it’s about exploring, exploring his city, state, country and even other countries. He loves to see kids ride bicycles, having fun and getting physical activity. But he hated seeing how many kids show up with bike-related injuries at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital ER where he worked. “One kid─wasn’t going fast, wasn’t doing tricks─falls, hits his head, and ends up with life-changing brain injury,” Tarango said. Tarango wanted to help. He wondered: What could he do to teach Latino and all kids bicycle safety behaviors, and thus reduce  bike-related injuries? Children, Bicycling, and Injuries Bicycling is good for your health. For kids, it can help develop muscle ...

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San Antonio Declares May Trauma-Informed Care Awareness Month


Dr Colleen Bridger speaking about opiod task force in Aug 2017 with Bexar County Judge Nelson Woff and City of San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg Source William Luther San Antonio Express-News.jpg

San Antonio has had an epic two years promoting trauma-informed care. The nonprofit Voices for San Antonio launched Early Childhood Training Workshops. East Central ISD started trauma-informed support for students. San Antonio police notify schools when kids experience traumatic events. The city itself, spurred by health director Dr. Colleen Bridger, created its first-ever coordinator for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and started a consortium for citywide trauma-informed care Now the City of San Antonio Mayor and City Council and the Bexar County Judge and Commissioners Court are expected to approve a proclamation during the first week of May to declare May as Trauma-Informed Care Awareness Month. “Through May, we will have ceremonials, proclamations, press ...

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San Antonio Health Director Gets First City-Funded ACEs Coordinator


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Dr. Colleen Bridger knows the devastating effects of childhood trauma, from risky behavior to bad grades, to even chronic disease. Bridger saw many childhoods ruined by abuse, poverty, and other trauma in her 20 years running three health departments and a childhood research/advocacy group in North and South Carolina. Health departments rarely coordinate with schools, healthcare providers, police, the justice system, and family support groups to address and reduce the impact of childhood trauma. Bridger wanted to change that. Since taking over as head of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department in 2017, she has worked to create a network of coordinated trauma-informed care for children and families facing adversity, even creating city’s first-ever job dedicated solely ...

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15 Examples of Health Involvement in Complete Streets


Cyclist riding the green bicycle lane

The safety of roads and sidewalks impacts everyone. Although Complete Streets initiatives are traditionally led by a transportation or public works sector, the public health organizations have played a role in communities across the country. A new report from the University of Chicago’s Institute for Health Research and Policy provides key strategies from public health agencies, advocates, and practitioners in 15 U.S. jurisdictions who have engaged in Complete Streets-related initiatives in their communities. Why Complete Streets? Complete Streets initiatives aim to create more equitable transportation systems by providing affordable, convenient, and accessible modes of mobility for all users. This includes individuals who rely on walking, biking, and public transit as their ...

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