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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

Report: 1 in 5 U.S. Latino, Black Children Have Obesity


two girls in class school physical activity to fight obesity

Children of color continue to struggle with obesity. Obesity rate continues to be significantly higher for Latino (20.7%) and black children (22.9%) than for white children (11.7%) ages 10-17, according to the new State of Childhood Obesity report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Obesity—and other chronic diseases—are more prevalent among those of color and those in poverty because discriminatory systems have disinvested in healthy policies and basic resources for them. In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is worsened by obesity, it is more critical than ever to prioritize children’s health. Latino children and young adults account for over 40% of the COVID-19 deaths among people ages 0-24, according to the CDC. To prioritize children’s ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 10/20: How to Address Transportation Equity for Latino Communities


How to Address Transportation Equity for Latino Communities

Latinos face many transportation inequities that impact their ability to build health and wealth. This is due in part to a lack of diversity among decision makers, planners, and engineers and ethnocentric policies, projects, and investments that reinforce the auto-centric status quo. Ultimately, past and present planning practices have failed to be inclusive of Latino needs, failed to represent historic and existing inequities, and failed to responsibly evaluate and measure impacts, targets, and performance. Two new reports from our year-long workgroup of planners and planning scholars provide recommendations to prioritize Latino experiences and needs in the planning process; address inequities and promote racially/economically mixed communities, and modify metrics used to ...

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Blame the Transportation System, Not the Pedestrian


Transportation for America "fixed" this NHTSA graphic.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is celebrating pedestrians by designating October as the first-ever Pedestrian Safety Month and creating a playbook with social media materials to raise awareness. This is good, because pedestrians deserve safety on a road, parking lot, or crosswalk. But it’s not all good. NHTSA is mostly focused on individual pedestrian safety, as opposed to systemic policy changes. This is a form of pedestrian-blaming. By blaming the pedestrian, like in victim-blaming or justifying inequities, Pedestrian Safety Month actually distracts from efforts to address the very transportation systems that endanger pedestrians in the first place. We are excited to see that Transportation for America’s Twitter thread that modified NHTSA ...

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On Streets of Injustice, Here’s How We Move toward Transportation Equity for Latinos


transportation equity workgroup findings (2)

Latinos face many transportation inequities. Years of unjust planning practices have cut them off from opportunities for health and wealth. To promote transportation equity for healthier communities, our leaders must ensure that transportation policies and practices are inclusive of Latino needs, address existing disparities, and are responsibly evaluated and measured, according to expert recommendations in two new reports from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. The two reports stem from Salud America!’s year-long workgroup of U.S. transportation and planning leaders that explored all aspects of equity in transportation for Latinos, thanks to an Innovation, Equity and Exploration grant from the Voices for Healthy Kids network at the American Heart Association. "These ...

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Essential Readings on Transportation, Race, and Equity for Faculty, Students


transportation race equity reading list

Our streets are the backdrop for social justice. On our streets, we see discriminatory policing targeting people of color. On our streets, we see protests to dismantle systemic racism. On our streets, there is more danger for pedestrians of color, as the rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 is 12% higher for Latinos and 48% higher for Blacks than whites. So why are our street planners mostly white, and mostly male? In fact, 88% of practicing urban and transportation planners self-identified as white, according to a 2013 American Planning Association Survey. That’s why, in the summer of 2020, Portland State University’s Urban Studies and Planning department reviewed the syllabi for core courses to determine how many readings and assignments were on topics of race and ...

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14 Stories from Black People Who Love Bikes


Stories from Black people who bike

Harmful biases impact the world of bicycling—professional, recreational, doctor-advised, and as a mode of transportation. That’s why we feel it’s essential to promote the stories of 14 riders who shared with Bicycling Magazine about their experiences being Black in the cycling world. These stories, which demonstrate the systemic barriers facing Black riders, are inspiring to many bicycle riders of color, including Latinos, who also deal with physical and silent barriers when it comes to public space. “With the rise of bicycling during this global health pandemic, this is the moment to educate the casual beach cruisers, fully-kitted weekend warriors, the urban planning students who can’t wait to ride back to campus—all of us—on the systemic oppression of Black ...

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2020 Traffic Death Rates Have Gone Up



Although people have been driving less since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the traffic death rate has gone up. Technically, absolute traffic deaths have decreased. But when you factor in the drop in vehicle miles traveled, people are being killed on our roads at a higher rate. Experts blame higher travel speeds due to emptier roads. MARCH 2020 UPDATE: Motor vehicle death rate up 24% in 2020 compared to 2019—the biggest increase in 96 years—despite drops in miles driven, according to the National Safety Council. People Are Driving Less Coronavirus took a major toll on health, especially for Latinos. But the virus also forced lockdowns and isolation across the country, slowing the economy and travel. Travel on roads and streets dropped 25.7% in May 2020, compared to May ...

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#SaludTues Tweetchat 9/8: Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19!


Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact Latinos, killing over 33,000 and hospitalizing many more. To improve Latino health, we must take action to slow the spread of coronavirus. But how do you communicate this issue to Latinos amid misinformation and information overload? Culturally relevant fact sheets, infographics, and video role model stories to inform and urge Latino families to take action to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Let’s use #SaludTues on Sept. 8, 2020, to Tweet about the #JuntosStopCOVID campaign to make sure Latinos and all people know what they can do to slow the spread of COVID-19. WHAT: #SaludTues Tweetchat: “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” TIME/DATE: 1-2 p.m. EST Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 WHERE: On Twitter with hashtag ...

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For COVID-19 Recovery, Invest in People and Places


Invest in people and places

Helping families recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 requires far more than a paycheck, particularly when already underfunded social services and transit agencies face budget cuts. To build resilience after COVID-19, cities need to invest in people and in places. More specifically, cities need to build a community-based workforce to ramp up social services, and cities need to invest in affordable transportation options. Cities Face More Than COVID-19 Economic Devastation The economic fallout from COVID-19 is real for cities and families, particularly for Latinos, who were already drastically underpaid compared to white workers. Beyond unequal pay, Latino and low-income families face a legacy of discriminatory policies and practices that have resulted in unaffordable ...

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