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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

Cities Fight to Lower Speed Limits on Deadly Roads


Lowering speed limits in Portland. Source: Twitter @andrewtheen

Speed—not speeding—is the most critical factor in the severity of a crash. However, due to state preemption of local authority, many cities can’t lower speed limits without lengthy state studies and procedures. Some cities, though, are still pushing to drop speeds, and uplift safety. Lower Speed Limits, Safer Roads Traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S. In 2017, speeding accounted for more than one fourth of all traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Check out this interactive map of over 59,000 speeding fatalities between 2010 and 2015, thanks to the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) and the Vision Zero Network. A 5 mph increase in the maximum speed limit was ...

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9 Strategies to Improve Intersection of Transportation and Dialysis


William Scott (right) and his wife, Teresa, arrived at DaVita Med Center Dialysis in Houston on Tuesday morning, after missing William's appointment on Monday. "It's just good he got in here," she says.

Chronic kidney disease is a crisis in the U.S. — yet, the intersection of transportation and healthcare is failing. Public transportation agencies, healthcare providers, and patients are concerned about the rising demand, cost of providing dialysis trips for patients with the illness. Of the forms of dialysis transportation, ambulance rides only make up 5% of trips in the US. However, they account for half of the $3 billion spent annually on dialysis transportation, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Health Economics and Outcomes Research. Costs could be reduced by one-third if ambulance use dropped to 1% of trips. Gathering Needed Data Before policy could change, all parties involved needed to know the lay of the land. In 2016, researchers with Cooperative ...

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Pensacola Hiring First-Ever Complete Streets Transportation Planner


Florida street without crosswalk.

Florida leads the nation in the number of pedestrians killed while walking on the street. The state (25.6% Latino) had the highest Pedestrian Danger Index numbers, according to the latest Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America. In response, Grover Robinson, the mayor of Pensacola, announced that the city created a new staff position to increase the safety of city roads by advancing Complete Streets. This is another step in the city’s plans to make pedestrian safety a priority, following the Florida Department of Transportation updating their 30-year old Complete Streets policy in 2014. “The problem we have is that we’ve done such a good job at building streets, and building them for cars, and building them for cars to go fairly fast that they aren’t ...

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Twin Cities Transformation: Moving Vehicles to Moving People


Bike lane in Minneapolis Source Michael Andersen with PlacesForBikes

During rush hour, the eight-lane Mississippi River Bridge in Minnesota collapsed, killing 13 people, and injuring over 140 more on Aug. 1, 2007. This tragedy was a wake-up call for officials in the Minneapolis-St. Paul “Twin Cities.” They could not afford to build their way out of congestion or repair the state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure. To achieve safe transportation improvements for a growing population, the Twin Cities’  Metropolitan (Met) Council began to transition away from policies that move vehicles to ones that move people. The evolution began by rethinking how to measure road performance, according to a case study of the Met Council by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Motivation to Change The bridge collapse highlighted ...

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47 States Don’t Meet the Recommended Student-to-Counselor Ratio


Police in public schools.

Schools today are under-resourced, and students are overcriminalized, particularly children of color and those with disabilities, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education now requires every public school to report the number of social workers, nurses, and psychologists employed. The ACLU analysis of the federal data provides a state-level, student-to-staff ratio for each position as well as a review of law enforcement presence in schools, student arrests, and referrals. The real crisis of schools isn’t violence, but a widespread failure to hire enough support staff that can meet students’ mental health needs, according to the report. The study uses data from the 2015-16 academic year, ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 4/2: How Child Toxic Stress is Bad for Health


Without responsive relationships with caring adults, children experiencing trauma may face developmental delays and health problems later in life.

Child toxic stress is bad for health. Strong, frequent, or prolonged toxic stress response in childhood can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems. Without responsive relationships with caring adults, children these children face developmental delays and health problems later in life. But many don’t understand of how childhood trauma impacts kids’ brains, bodies, and behavior. Let’s use #SaludTues on April 2, 2019, to tweet about toxic stress problems and solutions to celebrate National Stress Awareness Month in April. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “How Child Toxic Stress is Bad for Health” TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. EST Tuesday, April 2, 2019 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag #SaludTues HOST: @SaludAmerica CO-HOSTS: Turnaround ...

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4 Heroes Who Are Revolutionizing Trauma-Informed Care in Schools


4 heroes of trauma informed care and ACEs

Childhood trauma. Adverse childhood experiences. Mental health issues. Whatever you call it, trauma impacts a child’s brain and body. It undermines a child’s ability to learn, build relationships, and contribute in the classroom. Schools can play a big role in supporting students who deal with trauma out of school. That's why we at Salud America! are spotlighting four Salud Heroes who are creating school environments to address childhood trauma among students! 1. Ex-Coach Helps School District Change its System to Create a Culture of Care for Students of Trauma John Hernandez coached football in three disadvantaged school districts in Texas. When a player missed practice, Hernandez took it on himself to visit their home. He would check in on them and offer rides, so the ...

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4 Communities Leading the Way for Walking, Public Transit


Women loading bike onto rack on bus Source Omnitrans

Transit-rich, walkable communities strengthen the local economy, create opportunities for Latino and other vulnerable residents, and enhance community resilience. That’s why America Walks, a nonprofit organization, released four case studies sharing collaborative efforts to improve safety, walkability, and access to transit in four communities across the country. This is another effort in their Transit-Walkability Collaborative, which was established in 2017 by America Walks and eight other organizations. As part of the case study series, America Walks recognized: Nashville, Tennessee (10.4% Latino); Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (17.3%); Hartford, Connecticut (44.3%); and San Bernardino, California (64.3%). Two counties in particular offer valuable insights into inspiring ...

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Steady Housing Now a Big Factor in County Health Rankings


bus nieghborhood housing los angeles california suburb

Education. Access to medical care. Healthy food and safe places to play. Even housing. All these influence your health. That’s why annually, since 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released its County Health Rankings so each state can see how its counties compare on more than 30 factors that impact health, income, education, transportation, jobs, and more. The rankings help us understand what is making people sick or healthy, and what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work, and play. This year’s rankings took a deep dive into a new area: housing and health. Housing Ownership in Largely Latino Counties Owning a home can, over time, help build savings for education or for other opportunities important to health and future family ...

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