Dear UAB community and friends,

Today marks the culmination of a very rigorous and deliberate selection process and the commencement of what will be one of the most ambitious collaborative efforts ever undertaken by our university and academic medical center: the UAB Grand Challenge.

As part of our strategic plan, Forging the Future, we began in late 2017 a series of productive meetings around our campus and community to discuss the concept of a grand challenge — a substantial, complex and multifaceted problem that must be addressed through the most innovative technologies, treatments, approaches and policies, and whose solution will be nothing short of revolutionary in its impact. A call for ideas in spring 2018 resulted in 77 promising concept papers that — in true UAB fashion — spanned a broad range of disciplines, topics and potential solutions. Following a two-day workshop this past summer attended by more than 200 university and community participants, 13 teams self-formed to further develop and consolidate their concepts, eventually producing six fully formed and outstanding proposals.

Hear from each of the Grand Challenge finalists in this video.

We want to thank and commend all the teams for submitting so many worthy proposals, which we are confident will lead to other successful applications. This has been a very competitive process — including peer review by national experts who advised senior UAB leadership — that brought out our best and ultimately yielded the committee’s final selection.

We are pleased to announce today the UAB Grand Challenge: Healthy Alabama 2030: Live HealthSmart, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Mona Fouad, director of the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center and a nationally respected pioneer in her field. Our congratulations to Dr. Fouad and her team on their selection.

UAB Grand Challenge - Introducing UAB's Grand Challenge Winner - Healthy Alabama 2030: Live HealthSmart

This initiative will dramatically improve the health of all Alabamians by elevating our state out of the bottom 10 in national health rankings by the year 2030. Currently Alabama ranks 46th nationally in obesity, 48th in diabetes and 49th in high blood pressure, among other metrics, and the magnitude of this problem and its impact on population health, quality of life, workforce readiness and our state economy is staggering. We will employ a comprehensive, multisectoral approach — comprising academic partners, businesses, health care and insurance providers, local and state governments, faith-based organizations, and community stakeholders — in a concerted effort to lift Alabama into the 30s in key health metrics over the next 10 years. Improving these metrics will translate to healthier, happier and longer lives for the people of Alabama and provide a model for our nation and the world.

There could be no grander or more worthy challenge than this, and we well know we are up to the task. It will require the fullest measure of dedication, innovation and collaboration with our community and state — those very strengths that have defined and propelled UAB from the start and now inspire us to push the frontiers even further in our 50th anniversary year and beyond. With our collective will and energies mobilized behind this monumental effort, we will together have an impact that will be felt for generations to come.

Thank you for your partnership and support as we embark on our Grand Challenge.

With our best regards,

Ray L. Watts

Christopher S. Brown
Vice President for Research