Public health impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. From where we live, learn, work and play, public health touches issues in all communities.
To shine a light on the role the field plays in the Birmingham and Jefferson County community, the Office of Public Health Practice in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has created a series of videos to highlight current public health topics and projects. The POPulation Health Plugin series features the work local organizations are engaging in to improve population health and health care.
“The idea of doing these Plugins is to broaden the students’ minds about the issues in our community and how they are being addressed,” said Lisa McCormick, DrPH, associate dean for Public Health Practice and associate professor of environmental health science in the School of Public Health. “We want students to see how public health knowledge and skills are being used to solve complex issues in our community, and learn about organizations and agencies that are partnering to solve those issues.”
The most recent episode featured the impact the newly opened Kiwanis Vulcan Trail will have on creating a healthier Birmingham.
“This trail system is envisioned to help reduce our obesity rate and our hypertension rate,” said Libba Vaughan, executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust.
The Freshwater Land Trust partnered with the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center at UAB and the Jefferson County Department of Health to create the Birmingham REACH for Better Health program. The goal of the partnership is to reduce health disparities and promote healthier lifestyles. One of the ways to do this is by creating the planned 750-mile Red Rock Trail System.
“The Red Rock Trail System is a planned system of trails, bike paths, sidewalks and greenways throughout Jefferson County,” Vaughan said. “The vision is to connect everyone in Jefferson County within 1 mile of a trail.”
The new Kiwanis Vulcan Trail is the cornerstone of connecting people to the outdoors. “We want to give people easier access to safe places to walk and bike. We want everyone, regardless of where they live, to have the opportunity to be outside and be healthy.”
Featuring the new trail in the latest POPulation Health Series episode, McCormick says, showcases how partnerships influence public health.
“Many people don’t realize how community-based partnerships can directly impact their lives,” McCormick said. “Showing how organizations like the Kiwanis Club, the Freshwater Land Trust and UAB work together is an excellent example of a public health community partnership.”
McCormick hopes that the POPulation Health Plugin series will introduce students to the value of working in public health practice, as well as potential job or internship opportunities.
“Last year, 120 Master of Public Health (MPH) students interned all over the country and the world,” McCormick said. “The majority were in Alabama, thanks to partnerships between the UAB School of Public Health and multiple not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. We want students to see firsthand how they can create healthier and safer communities, and we want organizations to see how public health students can help them achieve their goals and mission.”
Vaughan agrees that these collaborations are important to the mission of the Freshwater Land Trust.
“We hope to create a better, healthier Birmingham,” Vaughan said. “I think now is the best time to live here, and it’s only going to get better. The Red Rock Trail System and the new addition of the Kiwanis Vulcan Trail are playing a major role in doing just that.”