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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

500 Cities Project: Local Data for Better Health


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How can you use data to improve health in your area? The 500 Cities dataset tries to provide an answer. The data set, which contains estimates of adult chronic disease, unhealthy behaviors, and preventive care for census tracts in 500 of the largest American cities, launched in 2016 thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the CDC Foundation. The Urban Institute released a research report in May 2017 on how to use the data to reach change-making partners. Access the data set here and register for a webinar on Tuesday, June 13, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. (EST) with Urban Institute to learn how to host a local event centered on the new 500 Cities neighborhood-level health data. Census tract-level data allows cities ...

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Although Disparities Still Exist, More Kids Know How to Swim


Latino Health physical activity swimming

The summer swim seasons begins this weekend for most of the country, but many kids have no to low swim ability. In fact, 40% of Caucasian children, 45% of Hispanic children, and nearly 64% of African-American children have no to low swimming ability, according to a new study conducted by the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Although there is a 5-10% improvement in overall swimming ability, 87% of kids with no or low swim ability plan to go swimming this summer at least once, putting them at risk for drowning. What can your community do to boost support for swimming lessons to prevent the horrific tragedy of drowning? Learn more about the complexities of swimming: Swimming may be the most promising physical activity to get Latino kid's active. ...

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Early Head Start Services for Migrant Families


Latino health early childhood development head start

Not all kids start kindergarten equally prepared to succeed. By a child's third birthday, 85% of their brain is fully developed. Children of migrant workers and Latino children growing up exposed to adverse childhood experiences, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, and poverty, as well as limited access to healthy food and safe places to play, are at increased risk for developing physical, mental, behavioral, psychosocial, and/or cognitive issues. High-quality early childhood programs can help level the playing field for Latino children on vocabulary and on social and emotional development. With federal funding, the East Coast Migrant Health Start Project serves 3,145 children annually through 26 Head Start centers in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South ...

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Parents Help Save Pool in Low-Income Minneapolis Area


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Hannah Lieder, foster mother and founder of Minneapolis Swims, has been working since 2010 to keep open the local Phillips Pool in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minn. Why? Lieder knows that children living in low-income, Latino, or minority neighborhoods have historically lacked convenient access to physical activity spaces, particularly swimming pools, compared to white or high-income neighborhoods. These social and environmental inequalities contribute to disparities in drowning rates, physical activity levels, health outcomes and academic achievement. Phillips Pool was in disrepair and under constant threat to be concreted over. Now, six years later, Lieder’s legacy lives on, through Denny Bennett, as crews will break ground on the Phillips Aquatics ...

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Video: Different Approach to Traffic Safety



How many people do you think are killed or severely injured in traffic crashes each year? What do you think is a good goal for your state? What should the goal be for your family? Should that be the goal for everyone? Oregon's regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, Metro, asked residents these questions at the KidFest! Family Expo in February 2017. See video. The goals was to frame traffic fatalities as preventable and raise awareness about Vision Zero. Vision Zero is an innovative road safety policy to make streets safer and eliminate traffic fatalities Skeptics claim that car crashes are an inevitable outcome in our vehicle-dominated society. Vision Zero draws a hard line between crashes and fatalities. Fatalities and serious injuries are not inevitable and ...

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People Stand in San Francisco Street to Create Protected Bike Lane


Latino Health Physical Activity Protected Bike Lane

On a early May morning in San Francisco, Calif. (15.1% Latino), people gathered on a dangerous street to stand arm to arm as a buffer between moving cars and the bike lane. The current bike lane is located between street parking and moving traffic. This is known as a door zone lane because people continuously fling open their car doors in this space and drive into and out of this space to park their cars. As we all know, paint does little to stop a person from driving their vehicle over or parking in the "protected" space. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA) saw the bike lanes fill up with auto traffic and double parking and proposed protected bike lanes for an upcoming project on the neighboring one-way street, according to Streets Blog San Francisco. ...

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Major San Antonio Employer Increases Time For Paid Family Leave


Latino health parental maternity leave

Paid maternity leave is linked to numerous positive health outcomes for parents and baby, breastfeeding is one. Sadly, in the U.S., only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. The Thing About Paid Family Leave Policies The thing about paid family leave policies in the U.S., is that the U.S. does not mandate paid family leave. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and soon New York are the only states to have state-mandated paid leave plans in place. Among 41 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Union, the U.S. is the only country not to require paid maternity leave. The U.S. provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the federal Family Medical Leave Act ...

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New Bill in Washington Requires the Reporting of PE Quality in Schools


Latino Health Physical Activity PE

Physical activity is linked with academic achievement and improved mental and physical health. Sadly, many Latino majority schools do not provide recommended time for recess or quality PE, thus kids fall behind and are at higher risk for chronic disease. On April 20th, 2017, the Governor of Washington (12.4% Latino) signed a new bill (HB 1235) which assesses PE practices in public schools. Effective July, 23, 2017, the bill requires all schools to conduct an annual review of their PE programs, to include: number of students completing PE per year number of minutes per week of PE number of students granted waivers from PE requirements instructors with valid health and fitness endorsements The results of the review will be shared with the school district's ...

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Safety First: New Partnership Pushes Safer Streets


Latino health physical activity traffic safety walkability vision zero

Although walking has numerous mental and physical benefits-and is fun-many people avoid walking if the streets aren't safe, which limits their mobility and access to basic necessities like schools, work, grocery stores, parks, healthcare, and other cultural and historical community resources. When it comes to safe streets, the U.S. lags far behind other countries. Given the inequity in access to safe streets and the disparities in fatalities and injuries among minorities, the issue of safe streets extends far beyond transportation planning and requires collaboration with public health and social justice researchers and practitioners. “We won’t save the number of lives we aim to without shifting our understanding of traffic violence from an individual behavior problem to a ...

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