$3 Million CDC Grant Will Expand Efforts to Build a Healthier Birmingham


   The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) won a competitive grant of nearly $3 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the gap in chronic diseases between African Americans and Whites in Birmingham by improving nutrition and physical activity in underserved African American communities.

The project, “Birmingham REACH for Better Health,” is a partnership between UAB, the Jefferson County Department of Health, United Way of Central Alabama, Freshwater Land Trust, Birmingham YMCA, REV Birmingham, Safe Routes to School, and the City of Birmingham. It builds on much of the work initiated through the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership, and involves key HAP partners in implementation.

The project will last three years and will reach more than 116,000 people.


“Substandard nutrition and lack of physical activity are key factors driving the disparities in chronic disease between African Americans and Whites,” said Dr. Mona Fouad, the Principal Investigator of this new initiative and the Director of the UAB MHRC and the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. “One of the most efficient ways to improve population health and cut down health-care cost is to ensure access to healthy food and physical activity. This, however, cannot be done effectively by the single individual or by a single organization. Collaboration is key for bringing about a change in policies, systems, and environments that impact health.”


Birmingham neighborhoods where at least 65 percent of the residents are African American will be the main target. Activities will be focused on improving nutrition and physical activity, which are risk factors for a number of chronic diseases.


“Birmingham REACH for Better Health” aims to increase the number of people with access to healthy food and beverages from currently 22,000 to 100,000 by the end of 2017. The project will expand programs that deliver fresh food from local agriculture to restaurants, large retailers, corner stores, childcare centers, and schools.


Also by the end of 2017, “Birmingham REACH for Better Health” plans to increase the number of people with access to physical activity opportunities from 51,000 to 110,000. The project will expand the Safe Routes to School program, increase the number of complete streets (streets with sidewalks and bike lanes or share-the-road signage), and boost the use of neighborhood trails and community parks.


The eight partnering organizations in the project will work closely with each other to capitalize on their strengths, leverage resources, ensure sustainability, and ultimately reduce the burden of chronic diseases in Birmingham’s neighborhoods.


To learn more about “Birmingham REACH for Better Health,” please contact Theresa Wynn-Wallace, PhD (205-934-6892; twynn@uabmc.edu).