The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 month ago

Live HealthSmart Alabama celebrates phase one improvements in Kingston

(Michael Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

Live HealthSmart Alabama, a University of Alabama at Birmingham initiative, celebrated phase one improvements in the Kingston community at Stockham Park. These improvements are the culmination of a yearlong implementation project to improve the community’s infrastructure, including new and improved sidewalks, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant street ramps, trees and flowers in Stockham Park, painted murals, new bus shelters, improved lighting in hard-to-see areas, and more.

“Live HealthSmart Alabama aims to advance healthy eating, physical activity and prevention and wellness in underserved neighborhoods throughout Birmingham and the state,” said Dr. Mona Fouad, principal investigator of Live HealthSmart Alabama and director of the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center. “To help achieve these aims, we started by making community improvements. This was especially evident in the built environment. We’re excited to show everyone what has been accomplished.”


To reenergize the community and encourage walkability, Live HealthSmart Alabama – in partnership with Brasfield & Gorrie and subcontracted through AG Gaston – knew sidewalks in Kingston needed to be either repaved or built from scratch. To contribute toward this initiative, Kirkpatrick Concrete donated all the concrete used to make these improvements.

Other partners that contributed to the accomplishments in Kingston include O’Neal SteelCoca-Cola United, the city of BirminghamAlabama PowerSteward MachineBirmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority MAXGoodwyn Mills CawoodBlank Space BhamNAFCOBirmingham Parks and Recreation, and Watkins Trucking Company.

“It has been a great and rewarding experience working with the city of Birmingham and Alabama corporations to accomplish the built environment improvements in Kingston,” said Fouad Fouad, Ph.D., director of the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center. “I believe these strong partnerships between academia and industry are built to last forever.”

Food deserts: A mobile solution

While each community’s needs are unique, a consistent issue Live HealthSmart Alabama has found in underserved areas is that these neighborhoods fall within areas that either have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables or are food deserts.

According to the USDA, a food desert is a place where one-third of residents live more than one mile from the nearest grocery store. Using this definition and census tracts, the USDA estimates that roughly 19 million people (or 6.2 percent of the U.S. population) live in a food desert.

To bring healthy and affordable food to Birmingham residents, Live HealthSmart Alabama introduced its new Mobile Market at the Kingston ribbon-cutting – which will run in partnership with Promoting Empowerment and Enrichment Resources (P.E.E.R.) and East Lake Market. Each week, the Mobile Market will visit communities in Birmingham, starting with their demonstration areas (Kingston, East Lake, Bush Hills and Titusville). Shoppers can purchase proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains and a variety of other healthy food options using cash, card, EBT or Double-Up Bucks.

“Currently, Alabama has some of the worst health outcomes in the nation,” said Mona Fouad. “The goal of Live HealthSmart Alabama is to move our state out of the bottom 10 in national health rankings. To do this, community members have to have access to healthy food options and the tools to be successful. The Live HealthSmart Alabama Mobile Market helps to provide that.”

In addition to its weekly route, the Live HealthSmart Alabama Mobile Market will also host monthly evening events in June and July where community members can shop and watch chef Chris Hastings of Hot & Hot Fish Club conduct a demonstration using food pulled directly from the market.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, UAB President Ray L. Watts, Myla Calhoun of Alabama Power and other UAB and community leaders also attended the event.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

Examining perceptions of COVID-19 in Alabama minority communities

(Pixabay, YHN)

New research examining the impact of COVID-19 on African Americans living in minority communities in Alabama has been published in Ethnicity & Health.

Early in the pandemic, virtual focus groups were conducted in five urban and rural Alabama communities to hear the concerns and roadblocks about the virus, COVID precautions, and testing that residents were experiencing. Their research found that gaining community members’ perspectives to identify barriers and facilitators to COVID-19 related to prevention, coping and testing may potentially improve outcomes.

The study was conducted by investigators Lori Bateman, Ph.D., and Yu-Mei Schoenberger, Ph.D., as part of community engagement initiatives of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Obesity Health Disparities Research Center.


“While addressing the social determinants of health, such as income, education and medical trust, would be an effective path by which to diminish health disparities related to COVID-19, this of course takes time, and there is an urgent need to mitigate the spread and severity of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations,” Bateman said. “Interventions should focus on downstream determinants, such as obstacles to prevention and care emerging from our study.”

Participants described barriers that may intensify health disparities. Barriers to prevention of COVID-19 included apathy, difficulty with social distancing, lack of information, mixed messages from authority figures and lack of personal protective equipment.

Barriers to coping with COVID-19 were food insecurity, mental health issues, isolation, economic hardships, lack of health care access, and issues with virtual schooling and church services, which were exacerbated by inability to connect to the internet.

Testing barriers included misunderstanding, fear, mistrust, testing restrictions and location of testing sites.

“These focus groups allowed residents to share their fears and concerns during the frightening and confusing early days of the pandemic,” Schoenberger said.

The study concluded that COVID-19 prevention and care programs should consider:

  • The need for access to clear, accurate, targeted and visible educational materials.
  • Access to testing by walk-up or drive-through venues within the most vulnerable communities.
  • Individuals trusted by the community, to guide residents through the process of identifying symptoms, accessing testing, explaining results and connecting those with positive test results to a health care provider for follow-up care.

“It is vital that we as researchers listen closely to what our communities are telling us,” said Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, principal investigator for the Obesity Health Disparities Research Center. “What we learned from this research shaped our COVID-19 education efforts and contributed to the creation of the Live HealthSmart Alabama mobile testing initiatives in underserved communities.”

(Courtesy of UAB)