Health Disparities and UAB:
Snapshots of Success
The UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) has a three-pronged approach to eliminating health disparities:
- Developing programs and resources to make innovative health disparities research possible;
- Enabling aspiring young researchers, from undergraduate students through junior faculty, to enter the field of health disparities research;
- Empowering communities and individuals to take charge of their health
Since 2003, the MHRC’s intensive Summer Enrichment Program has trained and prepared more than 80 undergraduate students from six Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Alabama and Georgia for the rigors of professional and graduate school. Students who complete this program are guaranteed interviews at UAB’s professional and graduate schools. Each of these students has been admitted to a graduate program, and one student received a full scholarship to the UAB School of Medicine.
The MHRC continues building the pipeline of minorities in the health-care field through its research focus. Each year, through a competitive process, and with funding provided through the Charles Barkley Health Disparities Initiative, the MHRC awards $30,000 pilot grants to at least three junior faculty whose research focuses on health disparities.
The return on this investment is undeniable: Five Barkley Award recipients, whose awards totaled $150,000, have collectively received nearly $4 million in external funding to expand their research projects.
Through community partnerships, the MHRC takes this research into communities that surround UAB, across Alabama, and into six states across the nation—aiming to transform our region’s poor and underserved neighborhoods into vibrant, healthy places. The MHRC touches the lives of thousands of adults each year through its Building Healthy Communities program, which provides disease prevention and wellness events, as well as “talking circles,” small groups led by MHRC-trained Community Health Advisors focusing on specific diseases such as breast and prostate cancer.
Since 2000, in partnership with several other programs that pre-date the establishment of the MHRC, more than 500 CHA volunteers have served as a neighbor-to-neighbor network of sound information, encouragement, and support for those facing or fearing serious illness.
Recognizing an opportunity to instill healthy habits at an early age, the MHRC implements its Healthy Happy Kids program at a minimum of two Birmingham-area elementary schools each year. Healthy Happy Kids (HHK) is an after-school program that teaches children to prepare healthy meals and play games that promote physical activity, aiming to reduce the rates of childhood obesity. A generous grant from BBVA Compass Bank in 2009 funded the adaptation of HHK for Latino children and their parents, with bilingual materials and culturally appropriate recipes for a population in which obesity is becoming a critical issue.
Virginia Gilbert Loftin
Executive Director of Development, UAB School of Medicine
(205) 975-5602 or firstname.lastname@example.org