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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

The Road Diet that Can Curb Transportation Gluttony


IOWADOT 4-to-3 pedestrian road diet street road

U.S. streets are getting more dangerous and traffic congestion isn’t going away, so transportation leaders in Iowa are pushing a new idea to improve road safety. A road diet. A road diet takes away lanes, like converting a road from 4 lanes into a 2-lane street with a center turn lane, which usually slows traffic and improves safety and economic vitality, according to a new video from the Iowa Department of Transportation (IOWADOT) shared by Strong Towns. This thinking flies in the face of typical ideas of roadway expansions. "Curing congestion by adding more lanes is like curing obesity by buying bigger pants,” said notorious planner, Lewis Mumford. The Unsustainability of Focusing on Solving Traffic Congestion Our transportation network should protect and meet the ...

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Tucson Approves Complete Streets Policy, Thanks to Advocates



Incomplete streets cover Tucson. Sadly, each year, 50 people are killed and 5,000 injured on streets in this 43% Latino town. Half of major streets don’t have sidewalks, and people face dangerous congested roads and limited access to public transit to get to work, medical appointments, and more. But that could change soon. In February 2019, the Tucson City Council voted 7-0 to pass a Complete Streets policy to fund, plan, design, and build streets with all users in mind. How Advocates Pushed Complete Streets in Tucson Nationwide, cities are adopting Complete Streets policies. These streets meet the needs of people walking, people biking, people taking transit, and people driving, regardless of age or ability. These streets are especially needed in areas with large Latino ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 2/12: Building our Outdoor and Ecological Literacy



Latinos lack access to healthy food and safe places to walk, bike and play and are less able to adapt or recover from changing climate. They face more social and economic barriers. They suffer higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and asthma than their white peers. Improving equitable access to community green space and creating sustainable foods systems and transportation networks can help to improve health and social mobility. Join us for a #SaludTues Tweetchat on Feb. 12, 2019, to tweet about building our outdoor and ecological literacy about community green space, food systems and transportation networks.   WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “Building our Outdoor and Ecological Literacy" TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. EST Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag ...

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Salud America! Members Provide 30% of Comments for Texas Transportation Safety!



Salud America! network members submitted 62 public comments urging the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to prioritize safety and wellbeing on state transportation projects. In August 2018, we asked people to submit public comments to TxDOT to shape transportation planning and spending across the state for the next 10 years, in what is known as the Unified Transportation Program (UTP). The UTP guides construction, development, and related activities for 13,000 projects. But some say it prioritizes traffic congestion relief over safety and connectivity. Salud America! filed an open records request with TxDOT and discovered 30% of all comments TxDOT got on the UTP were from Salud America! members! That’s 62 of 211 total comments, and a big jump from the 27 comments ...

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Study: San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA Students Exceed Average Math & Reading Scores



The first group of participants in the San Antonio’s full-day public preschool program performed better on state standardized tests than others in public preschools and those who didn’t attend preschool, according to a new study, San Antonio Express-News reports. Voters approved Pre-K 4 SA in 2012. In 2018, the first group of Pre-K 4 SA students reached third grade, when the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam is first given. How do Pre-K 4 SA students (76.3% Latino) compare statewide? Over 11 percentage points higher on reading scores and over 15 percentage points higher on math scores than students who didn’t participate in public pre-K, according to the report by University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) Urban Education Institute! Pre-K 4 ...

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Schools Must Integrate Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning


Social emotional learning

Schools should reshape their environment to promote students’ social, emotional, and academic learning, according to a new report from the Aspen Institute. In schools with little focus on social and emotional learning, students of color or those who have experienced poverty and other childhood trauma may fall behind in typical measures like grades, attendance, and graduation. They aren’t prepared for success in adulthood. The new report explores the science of learning and makes the case for integrating—rather than separating—students’ social, emotional, and academic development. This would benefit all kids, especially Latinos and others at-risk, for the future of our nation. “Educating the whole student requires rethinking teaching and learning so that academics ...

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Salud America! Members Send 2,214 Emails to Address Childhood Trauma


childhood adversity impacts lifelong mental and physical health

More than 2,000 Salud America! network members emailed public comments urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences in proposed objectives for Healthy People 2030. Healthy People represents critical public health priorities by focusing on the leading causes of death and disease and driving action at the national, state, and local levels. Since its launch in 1979, the initiative has grown from 15 topics and 226 objectives in 1990 to 42 topics and more than 1,200 objectives in 2020. However, no objectives tackle the rising health issue of childhood trauma. So, with help from Dr. Colleen Bridger of San Antonio Metro Health District and Dr. Joe Hendershott of Hope for the Wounded Student, we ...

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How Your City Can Fund More Active Transportation



Access to walking, bicycling, and other forms of active transportation can benefit Latino and all people’s health, safety, social connectivity, and quality of life. But many communities struggle to pay for sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails. Fortunately, a new report from Safe Routes to School National Partnership explains “active transportation financing” and how it can set the stage for strong health partnerships that can generate healthy, active, equitable communities Active Transportation Matters There is a connection between public health and transportation. People are healthier when they have safe places to walk and bike. However, disparities exist. Low-income populations and Latino and other communities of color have fewer safe places to walk and higher ...

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