Nearly $3 million awarded to battle health disparities

The “Birmingham REACH for Better Health” partnership aims to increase the number of people with access to healthy food and physical activity opportunities.

minority health research center 2010 1The University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center won a competitive grant of nearly $3 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the gap in chronic diseases between blacks and whites in Birmingham by improving nutrition and physical activity in underserved African-American communities. 

The award is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending.

The project, “Birmingham REACH for Better Health,” is a partnership between UAB, the Jefferson County Department of Health, United Way of Central Alabama, Freshwater Land Trust, Birmingham YMCA, REV Birmingham, Safe Routes to School and the City of Birmingham.

The project will last three years and reach more than 116,000 people.

“Substandard nutrition and lack of physical activity are key factors driving the disparities in chronic disease between blacks and whites,” said Mona Fouad, the principal investigator of this new initiative and the director of the UAB MHRC and the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. “One of the most efficient ways to improve population health and cut down health care costs is to ensure access to healthy food and physical activity. This, however, cannot be done effectively by a single individual or by a single organization. Collaboration is key for bringing about a change in policies, systems and environments that impact health.”

Birmingham neighborhoods where at least 65 percent of the residents are African-American will be the main targets. Activities will be focused on improving nutrition and physical activity, which are risk factors for a number of chronic diseases.

“Birmingham REACH for Better Health” aims to increase the number of people with access to healthy food and beverages from 22,000 currently to 100,000 by the end of 2017. The project will expand programs that deliver fresh food from local agriculture to restaurants, large retailers, corner stores, child care centers and schools.

Also by the end of 2017, the initiative plans to increase the number of people with access to physical activity opportunities from 51,000 to 110,000. The project will expand the Safe Routes to School program, increase the number of streets with sidewalks, bike lanes or share-the-road signage, and boost the use of neighborhood trails and community parks.

The eight partnering organizations in the project will work closely with one another to capitalize on strengths, leverage resources, ensure sustainability and ultimately reduce the burden of chronic diseases in Birmingham’s neighborhoods.

To learn more about “Birmingham REACH for Better Health,” please contact Theresa Wynn-Wallace, Ph.D., at 205-934-6892 or