National center on physical activity and disability coming to Birmingham

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability will be part of the UAB/Lakeshore Foundation Research Collaborative.

A $3 million, three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will fund the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability which is locating in Birmingham as part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham/ Lakeshore Research Collaborative. The center focuses on the relationships between good health and physical activity in people with disabilities.

lakeshore_rimmer_webThe center director is James Rimmer, Ph.D., recently recruited to UAB as the Lakeshore Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Promotion and Rehabilitation Sciences in the UAB School of Health Professions. Rimmer, who has been developing and directing programs for people with disabilities for more than 30 years, leads the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative.

NCHPAD derives from a similar center Rimmer ran for 13 years at the University of Illinois at Chicago prior to joining UAB.  The new center expands on the scope of the previous efforts, in large part through UAB’s collaboration with Lakeshore Foundation.

“This grant represents and demonstrates the power of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative,” said Jeff Underwood, president of Lakeshore Foundation. “To secure this program and funding within the first 90 days of the Research Collaborative’s operation is quite impressive and gives the Collaborative a tremendous start in establishing its reputation as a leader in physical activity and disability. It also positions Birmingham as the national hub of information about physical activity for people with disabilities,” added Underwood.

There are five goals for the NCHPAD.  Rimmer says the unique collaboration between UAB and Lakeshore Foundation is integral to achieving these goals.

“A great many of the programs we envision coming from the center will be ideas that originate from Lakeshore staff and UAB investigators working directly with people with disabilities on the front lines at Lakeshore’s facilities,” Rimmer said. “We can then use UAB’s research expertise to validate those ideas and employ the center’s national reach to disseminate them across the country and the world.”

The first goal, consistent with Rimmer’s previous work in Chicago, is to provide a web-based portal to help people with disabilities get information on how to become physically active, eat well, and manage their weight and secondary conditions. This information center will be located and managed at Lakeshore Foundation.

A second goal is to train public health professionals, such as nutritionists and exercise physiologists in how to better serve people with disabilities, with an eye toward overcoming barriers to physical activity and nutrition. A third goal will be to develop better communication networks, particularly through use of social media, to promote good health and physical activity to this population.

The last two goals are new to NCHPAD.  One will build a leadership base with local partners to create a community health inclusion sustainability plan. Rimmer says the needs of individuals with disabilities must be included and addressed by local community planners as they launch projects ranging from parks and public buildings to sidewalks and community redevelopment. One partner already on board is Easter Seals.

The remaining goal will be to develop systems to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are considered in healthcare policy decisions and health promotion.

Rimmer is on the NIH National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research advisory board. He also serves on several national advisory boards in rehabilitation engineering and is currently a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Disparities Advisory Committee to the Director of CDC.   

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