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Building Healthy Community (BHC) coalitions build the community capacity for the implementation of health-related initiatives that support improvements in minority healthy and the reduction of health disparities. 

Current BHC coalitions are located in the following cities across Alabama: Birmingham (Kingston, Fountain Heights, and Bessemer), Orrville, outside of Selma, and Prichard, outside of Mobile.BHC map

  • Prichard Coalition

    Prichard is outside of Mobile with a population of 22,000, 75% of whom are black.

    One in three families are below the poverty line. Closing factories in the 80s and 90s created economic challenges. In 1999, the city declared bankruptcy.

    The Prichard Coalition was established in January 2019, with 40 members, led by the Mayor and other representatives. The Mayor’s hope for the Coalition is to establish this group as an enabling platform to coordinate existing services and bring in new partners and resources to improve the health of Prichard.

    Through such initiatives as the Building Healthy Communities, the MHERC has built a bridge to the community and translated science into better health for all. Through many years of working in underserved communities, the MHERC is building capacity for a change in the culture of health.  



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  • Orrville Coalition

    Orrville is a rural community, outside of Selma in Alabama’s Black Belt. Only 204 people live in the town, leaving a weak tax base to provide support services. There are residents who live outside the city who also rely on services from the city. Most people travel to Selma for food, health care, and other needs. Transportation is problematic. There is no public transportation or an affordable way for residents to get to Selma.

    The Orrville Coalition was established in June 2018 with 34 members, made up of city and county residents, the Mayor, and one of the three business owners in Orrville. Coalition members are planning improvements to an existing green space, adding a walking trail and playground, since the nearest playground is a 40-minute drive. They also want to clear away the overgrowth of the high school walking track. A pressing issue stems from the lack of easy access to medical care. A partnership with Selma and Dallas County United Way and the UAB Family Practice Medical Residency Program in Selma brought “Doc on the Spot” monthly health clinic to Orrville, offering free medical services for uninsured residents.


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  • Kingston Coalition

    Kingston Like many areas bordering Interstate 20/59, Kingston is largely minority, with a population of 11,539 residents. The area has increased poverty and infant mortality, decreased life expectancy, and limited access to healthy foods. Neighborhood tension and fear of violence keep adults and children indoors, limiting opportunities for exercise and stifling attempts to build community.

    The Kingston Coalition was established in March 2016 as a pilot project of a NIMHD grant. The Coalition’s first goal was to improve communication and relationships among each other. They held a successful “Get to Know Your Neighbor Day” on September 17, 2016, with food, fun, and fellowship and a chance for residents to voice their dreams for a better Kingston. Topics included unity and peace, violence and safety, better living conditions/environment, family, and faith.

    Following the community day, the Coalition turned its focus on reviving the aging community garden. The team secured an external grant to bring new life to the Kingston Community Garden, doubling the number of raised beds, increasing the harvest, and fully stocking the garden with tools. 

    Through the Coalition’s partnership with Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC), the MHERC’s six-week childhood obesity prevention program, Healthy Happy Kids was introduced to children from Kingston at IPC’s Children’s Fresh Air Farm. Nearly 85 children, ages 5-11, know the importance of healthy foods and an active lifestyle to living a healthy life.

    The pride of the Kingston coalition is the visioning and development of the Kingston Teaching Farm at Morton-Simpson Village, which was funded by a national grant. With the help of community partners, the Coalition built a covered teaching area, tool storage building, and a raised bed garden. Through collaborations with ArchitectureWorks and Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Coalition is teaching Kingston residents about growing fresh vegetables for better health. 

    The MHERC is an anchor partner in the Campus of Hope, a project of the local housing authority and is a hub of social services and opportunity agencies serving five housing communities. Since October 2018, the MHERC has reached 271 adults and children with health services, monthly Lunch & Learns, HHK, and the community walking program WALK, Feel Alive.

    The Kingston Coalition also supported MAVERICKS, a youth violence prevention research study and mentoring program, which recently graduated 16 boys ages 11-14. MAVERICKS is a collaboration of MHERC researchers, a youth mentoring program, advisors from 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and funded through the Center for Healthy African American Men through Partnerships.


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  • Fountain Heights Coalition

    Fountain Heights is a 1,188 square foot community inside the City of Birmingham with 8,923 residents. While Fountain Heights is reportedly the closest community in proximity to Birmingham’s downtown area, many residents lack safe transportation across the busy I-65 interstate. There are deserted and blighted homes in the community, making it difficult for residents to secure home insurance. The area is also a food desert and residents have little to no access to nutritious food.

    The Fountain Heights Coalition was established in June, 2018 with 30 members representing residents, city officials, community partners, and interested stakeholders. They identified three issues affecting the health of the community: Access to Healthy Food, Pride in the Community, and Healthy Children and Families.

    The Coalition developed a partnership with the Community Food Bank whose Mobile Grocery Market makes monthly visits to the community, offering fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, and dry goods at wholesale prices. The Coalition will make improvements to the community garden, adding a water cistern and a farm stand with a produce washing station. Healthy Happy Kids was implemented at Tuggle Elementary School in spring of 2018, with 30 students learning to live healthier lives.


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  • Bessemer Coalition

    Bessemer is southwest of Birmingham, in Jefferson County, with a population of 23,000. It was once a booming community, supporting the area’s iron and steel making industries. When Birmingham’s steel industry closed in the 70s, Bessemer saw a dramatic rise in unemployment rates and increased crime. While there are pockets of promise in Bessemer, many of the areas are blighted and residents are experiencing the burdens of the social determinants of health.

    The Bessemer Coalition was established in June, 2018 with 32 members representing residents and community stakeholders. Members prioritized important issues such as Access to Healthy Foods, Childhood Obesity Prevention, and Increased Services for Seniors. The first initiative addressed healthy living for children. Healthy Happy Kids was conducted with 89 children in the afterschool program at the local YMCA in October, 2018. The Coalition also produced the Bessemer Healthy Jam, a city-wide health fair on February 23, 2019 at the Bessemer Recreation Center. In addition to health screenings, demonstrations, and fun activities to children.


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