The City of Birmingham and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) took a major step toward smarter, healthier and more sustainable development with the Feb. 27, 2013, signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to partner on projects such as energy efficiency and city planning that accounts for a more “livable” city.
“Everyone wants to have a smart city,” Birmingham Mayor William Bell said at the signing ceremony in UAB’s Alumni House. “We want to create a green city with bike paths and proper sidewalks. We are beginning that process tonight.”
UAB President Ray L. Watts said, “There is no question that the success and vitality of UAB is inextricably linked to the success and vitality of Birmingham. UAB has a role to play in community service, and we want to make sure that the breadth and depth of UAB’s expertise is brought to bear to help our community.”
UAB School of Medicine’s Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC), which focuses on improving the health of population groups, and the Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, with engineers known internationally for their work planning and creating healthier city plans, will conduct the bulk of work under MOU.
Mona Fouad, M.D., is the director of the MHRC and director of UAB’s division of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Medicine,
“In order for cities like Birmingham to play a role in improving the health of its citizens, we have to think in innovative ways,” Fouad said. “We have to include engineering to help us design, businesses for business development, policy makers and health practitioners.”
Watts described a healthier city as one that is also economically stronger.
“At UAB, we want to drive economic development for our community,” Watts said. “We would like to see a knowledge-based and technology-based economy in Birmingham and across Alabama.”
A group of about 50 attended the signing ceremony as a prelude to the MHRC’s annual research symposium. Hugh Barton, M.Phil., emeritus professor of Planning, Health and Sustainability at the University of West England in Bristol, England, and a special advisor to the World Health Organization, presented a keynote speech about creating neighborhoods for health and health equity.
More details of the MOU will be discussed April 3, 2013, at the Sustainable Smart Cities research symposium.