An innovative University of Alabama at Birmingham-sponsored health education and wellness facility opening March 15, 2011, has one goal in mind — to improve the health of the people who live and work in the city.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 80 percent of heart disease, strokes and Type 2 diabetes and 40 percent of cancers in the United States could be prevented if Americans would stop smoking, eat healthy foods and exercise. Nowhere is this more true than in Alabama, where 31.6 percent of residents are considered obese and 22.1 percent of adults smoke.
UAB HealthSmart, located in the Watts Tower on the corner of 20th Street and Third Avenue North in downtown Birmingham, will offer free, tangible ways for Birmingham residents, employees and visitors to improve their health.
An initiative of the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center and UAB Division of Preventive Medicine, the new storefront offers personalized disease-prevention programs, wellness evaluations and health-education resources providing tips for a healthy lifestyle. Services, funded by grants, corporate partnerships and philanthropic gifts, are free to participants.
“We are excited to bring the MHRC’s successful wellness programs into the heart of the city center, giving everyone who works, lives or visits downtown easy access to free preventive care,” says Mona Fouad, M.D., professor and director of the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine and director of the UAB MHRC. “Since 2003, our initiatives have affected the lives of more than 60,000 people locally and statewide. With UAB HealthSmart, we hope to continue to translate science into better health for thousands more.”
“Service to our community is at the heart of UAB’s mission,” says UAB President Carol Garrison. “UAB HealthSmart is an example of the university’s collaborative programs that have a direct effect on the health, education and quality of life of Birmingham’s citizens. These programs are efforts that all students, faculty and staff can be very proud of, as we work together and contribute in our own ways to a healthier, more prosperous community and state.”
UAB HealthSmart’s programs are rooted in primary and secondary disease-prevention strategies and offer these services:
- Health evaluations — Free preventive screenings, including vision, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat and other health tests
- Health talking circles — Health education discussion groups led by knowledgeable health-care professionals on topics from diabetes to heart disease
- Healthy lifestyle demonstrations — Hands-on classes teaching participants to improve health by eating better foods and finding ways to get daily exercise
- WALK Feel Alive program — Successful program that provides free walking kits, including step-counting devices, to encourage walking for good health
- Health e-answers workstations — In-house computers providing personal health profiles and access to online health-risk assessments and trusted health resources
- Health education pamphlets — A variety of brochures available on major chronic diseases and reducing health risks
“We also will provide referrals, if necessary, to additional preventive services within the UAB Health System and will have information about enrolling in UAB clinical trials,” Fouad says.
“Ensuring the health of the Birmingham community is an important part of the mission of the UAB School of Medicine,” says Ray L. Watts, M.D., senior vice president for medicine and dean of the UAB School of Medicine. “The school, its students and faculty help staff a number of health clinics around the city, but this is the first center with the sole mission of disease-prevention education. We look forward, through UAB HealthSmart, to working with Birmingham’s corporations and organizations to encourage employees and members to take advantage of the facility’s services and improve the health of the workforce and the community at large.”
Fouad believes that UAB HealthSmart can be a national model for preventive care. She hopes that people throughout greater Birmingham will use UAB HealthSmart to improve their health.
“By understanding and acting on the power of prevention, we — all of us — have the power to shift the current paradigm from managing chronic diseases to promoting health and wellness,” she says.