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News From Our Research Center

UAB Preventive Medicine receives national grant to improve safety for Bessemer residents

Written by: Anne Heaney

The UAB Division of Preventive Medicine (DOPM) was awarded a grant from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reduce violent crime in Bessemer, Alabama and improve relationships between community residents and police officers.

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Tuskegee University presents 'On The Vaccine Fence'

On June 11, 2021, Tuskegee University in partnership with Alabama CEAL, hosted a virtual citizen forum "On the Vaccine Fence: Connecting Spirituality & Science to Make Informed Decisions," to answer questions and address concerns surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. 

If you were unable to attend, below is a full video of the Zoom session. 

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New Grant: RAMP-UP Multi-Year Summer Research Experience

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center and the Deep South Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR) will use funding from a recent grant to launch an intensive multi-year summer experience: UAB Research in Aging through Mentorship and Practice—Undergraduate Program (UAB RAMP-UP).

To reduce health disparities in older adults, diversity of research is imperative. Ensuring this diversity is maintained requires the strategic nurturing of pipeline training programs such as RAMP-UP.

RAMP-UP gives underrepresented and rural undergraduate students a team of mentors to support their educational achievements and career development. Each mentorship team consists of a personal advocate, academic mentor, and career coach.

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Minority Health Month Feature: Dr. Lori Bateman

Lori B Minority Health Feature WebFor those following along with our Minority Health Month researcher spotlights, we started the month by introducing you to Dr. Maria Pisu, who is pioneering research in EMOT-ECON (the relationship between the financial burden of disease and the effect it has on a person’s emotional well-being). Then, last week we showed you what Dr. Mona Fouad has been working on and the journey she took to get there.

Now, we want to introduce you to Lori Bateman, Ph.D., R.D., who is the principal investigator for YES! We Can Play. If you’re not familiar with the program, YES! We Can Play is working hard to solve a unique sports programming dilemma in Birmingham’s City Schools. In middle school, sixth-graders no longer have time for recess yet are ineligible to play on the sports teams offered to 7th and 8th-grade students. Additionally, many students don’t have access to the recreation or club sports that are available to wealthier families.

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Minority Health Month Feature: Dr. Mona Fouad

web fouad featureIf you’re following our National Minority Health Month series, you might remember that earlier, we shined a light on the work we’re doing in partnership with the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and the Schools of Medicine and Public Health & Health Professions.

Alabama CEAL is working to help demystify COVID Vaccines by addressing the myths and misconceptions surrounding them. Working specifically within our underserved populations, CEAL aims to help those disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to promote and facilitate the inclusion and participation of the underserved minorities, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded an effort for outreach and engagement. Leading that effort is Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH.

To get insight into Dr. Fouad’s journey to becoming the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Director and Professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine, and Director of the Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center, we asked her to participate in a Q&A.

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Minority Health Month Feature: Dr. Maria Pisu

web emot econ feature dr pisuThroughout the pandemic, there has been a big focus on health disparities and the consequences they have on minorities. At UAB, we have world-renowned researchers that focus on determining why these disparities exist and ways to reduce the gap.

In the spirit of National Minority Health Month (April), we set out to help raise awareness for the different programs that operate out of the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center. First, we spotlighted EMOT-ECON—which pays attention to the financial burden of a disease and its effect on a person’s emotional well-being.

To help you learn more about the woman leading this program, we are interviewing Maria Pisu, Ph.D. and professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine.

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Hustling to end Childhood Obesity: a virtual 5K Hosted by MHRC Young Professionals Board

HHK Run MapWith the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) Young Professionals Board opted to postpone its annual Harlem in the ‘Ham event and in favor of a more socially distanced option.

This past December, MHRC Young Professionals Board hosted the inaugural Holiday Hustle virtual 5K for Healthy Happy Kids (HHK).

Runners, walkers, and crawlers were invited to participate while wearing their wildest, zaniest, and most fun Holiday attire. This virtual event occurred over the course of a week. During this timeframe, participants could run at their own pace, in their own space.

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MHRC Virtual Training Summer Programs

In the fall months of 2019 into the early weeks of 2020, Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) Training Program Director, Ann Smith, and Program Manager, Dawn Fizer, prepared for another year of summer curricula. Between Ann and Dawn’s 30 years’ experience managing MHRC programs, neither could have been ready for the changes they would encounter in 2020. As COVID-19 got closer and closer to home, many programs received instructions from national offices on whether or not they would be proceeding with their annual events. When necessary, it was left to individual schools and research centers to determine how they would be moving forward with their summer programs.

The MHRC offers four different training programs—geared toward undergraduate, graduate, and junior faculty & post-doctoral fellows. Click one of the groups below to learn more about the program(s) available.

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The Birmingham City Schools (BCS) Department of Athletics, Department of Physical Education and Health and the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center have partnered to bridge the local sports programming gap through YES! We can PLAY: A Physical Activity and Nutritional After-School Program for 6thGraders. This project is supported by a two year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health and Office on Women’s Health

In Alabama middle schools, sixth-graders are affected by a unique sports programming dilemma: They no longer have time for recess like elementary school-aged students, but are ineligible to play on sports teams available to seventh- and eighth-graders—leaving those without the means to access club or recreational sports very few options for participating in organized sports. For many Birmingham City School system students, options to stay active outside of school are restricted as well.

“BCS students often live in communities that have limited, if any, informal physical activity options outside of school,” said Lori Bateman, Ph.D., principal investigator for YES! We can PLAY and program director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Obesity Health Disparities Research Center (OHDRC). “Lack of both informal and organized physical activity opportunities may lead to sixth-graders dropping out of sports participation altogether. This is particularly concerning since the transition between middle and high school is associated with less physical activity, which is a health issue that must be addressed.”

Henry Pope, BCS Athletic Director, has noticed the issue as well: “Sixth grade is a time when we lose athletes because when they’re looking for things to do, there are no sports offered. We needed a program to address the gap between elementary school and middle school, which is why we collaborated with UAB for YES! We can PLAY.”

YES! We can PLAY partners hope to ultimately impact students’ ability to integrate physical activity and nutritional information into their lives moving forward. The program comes at a critical point in students’ lives— research suggests that lower health status during formative years contributes to poorer health outcomes later in life, while effective health interventions during youth have positive health impacts on people throughout their lifespan. 

We want to get children physically active, moving and enjoying what they do,” said Dr. Sherri Huff, coordinator and program specialist for K-12 physical education. “YES! We can PLAY helps keep them involved and provides interest by adding another dimension on the few opportunities that exist. An increased variety of organized sport activities will allow students to participate in getting and staying healthy.”

For six months, sixth-graders will have the opportunity to participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day after school, with healthy eating and social-emotional learning components also integrated for greater potential for positive results in student behavior. The program, an extension of a collaborative partnership between BCS and UAB, led by the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center, will begin in five BCS middle schools—Bush Hills, Hayes, Hudson, Putman, and Wilkerson—in January of 2020 and eventually expand to 11 middle schools, with an anticipated goal of reaching of over a thousand students.

“We want to get kids interested and excited about sports and help them get prepared to play sports, so that ultimately, there are increased levels of physical activity present throughout their lives,” said Bateman. “In terms of research, we’re interested in seeing if this type of program can be effective as an intervention. Our hope is that if effective, we can make YES! We can PLAY a sustainable program in Birmingham City Schools that will be available to sixth-graders for as long as needed. BCS may become a model for other school districts, if future trials show that the program is effective in different settings as well.”

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