10 months ago

UAB Health Disparities Research Symposium aims to improve health with multi-level approach

“You’re in the belly of the beast now.”

That was the response of a Birmingham cab driver in welcoming author and health and social welfare policy expert Dr. Jonathan Engel to Birmingham. Engel, author of “Fat Nation: The history of obesity in the United States” spoke to about 65 health experts at UAB’s 14th annual Health Disparities Research Symposium.

Indeed, Engel’s mission was to spotlight the numerous health problems caused almost entirely by obesity. Alabama ranks No. 5 among the nation’s 10 fattest state populations.

“Overweight is highly correlated with type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, arthritis and other health issues,” said Engel, a professor at Baruch College at the City University New York (CUNY). “Too much weight puts enormous stress on joints and on the heart. It’s a long-term, chronic strain on the body.”

Engel said more than 50 percent of meals are eaten outside the home, a huge departure from American norms as compared to the middle of the 20th century. Noting that he and his wife made concerted efforts to ensure their four children ate healthily, Engel said it’s much easier to control what you eat by cooking your own food and avoiding processed foods.

“My main message is the obesity epidemic is largely environmental,” Engel said. “We’ve created a food environment where it’s very difficult for anyone to be thin.”

Sponsored by UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC), the symposium included oral presentations and poster sessions featuring original research by academic investigators, scholars and community partners in the fields of basic science, clinical research, social and behavioral science, and community-based research.

“Your environment has a huge aspect on your behavior and health,” said keynote speaker Dr. Karen Glanz. A member of the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services for 10 years, Glanz’s research focuses on cancer prevention and control, theories of health behavior, obesity and the built environment, social and health policy, and new health communication technologies.

“We know that physical activity can prevent heart disease, cancer, depression and cognitive decrease across the life span,” said Glanz, director of UPenn Prevention Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are real disparities in areas of the South and Southeast, which fare less well in physical activity.”

Glanz recommends design changes and health policy intervention to influence urban design that incorporates sidewalks and parks; encourages land-use policies such as zoning that allows residents to be more active; increases access to public parks and outreach; and adds prompts and signs that encourage stair usage.

On April 18, UAB’s Dr. Mona Fouad took part in a roundtable discussion with Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and community leaders about creating a social services hub for five housing communities in greater Birmingham.

For nearly 30 years, MHRC Director Fouad has worked to reduce health disparities in vulnerable communities, whose troubles are compounded when located in food-imbalanced areas.

“Areas without grocery stores are more often found in underserved communities,” Fouad said in 2017, and are often created in part by residents’ lack of purchasing power and transportation to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Researchers share their findings

About 20 researchers shared their studies in breakout sessions: policy and system influences of health; disparities measurement and methods; and social and environmental determinants of health.

Brittney Davis, a postgraduate fellow in the UAB studying in the HudsonAlpha Genomic Medicine Training Program, dreams of doing research that will bring positive health outcomes for Alabamians. She discussed her findings diagrammed on a poster.

“I want to learn how to use pharmacogenetic data in making clinical decisions,” said Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from UAB and her doctor of pharmacy degree from Samford University in 2018. “I have learned a great deal about how drugs work at the molecular level, and how they can be profoundly influenced by genetic factors.”
During a breakout session about clinical and social factors of excess hypertension risk, Dr. Suzanne Judd said diet definitely matters. The disparity for stroke is worse, at younger ages, for black Americans. Among 30,239 white and black participants, a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet was the most powerful risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer and cognitive decline.

“There are reasons for geographic and racial differences in stroke; African Americans have more strokes,” Judd said.

“The Southern diet score is the most potent mediator of the black/white difference in hypertension risk, accounting for 51.5 percent of the excess in men and 25.8 percent in women. We can attribute the Southern diet as the biggest factor for hypertension and diabetes.”

Dr. Peng Xu discussed the mutational landscape of cancer patients with overweight and obese tendencies, whose findings were part of a cancer study led by Dr. Zechen Chong of the UAB School of Medicine.

“There’s a contribution of excess body weight to different cancer cases,” Xu said. “We found more endometrial cancer in obese patients and more somatic mutations of BMI in cancer patients. BMI was higher among the different cancer patients.”

Healthy diet, physical activity equal healthier future

Wallace said it’s important for everyone to know their health numbers, such as blood pressure and blood sugar readings, and cholesterol levels, and to take control of their diet and increase physical activity.

“We need to do these things before the person presents at the ER with high blood pressure,” she said. “Our state is called ‘Alabama the Beautiful,’ but Alabama can also be healthy, Alabama can be well.”
Decreasing health disparities in Alabama

UAB MHRC has a track record of improving areas where residents live, work and play through policy systems and environmental changes. Sometimes, the barriers seem nearly insurmountable, said Dr. Theresa Wallace.

“About 20 years ago, lots of emphasis was placed on the individual and their choices, but we know and appreciate that individuals live in a larger context,” said Wallace, program director for UAB Preventive Medicine. “The determinants of health include many things. We look at the context of where health happens – at home, school and work.”

She said physical activity, eating healthy, and prevention and wellness are the three pillars of good health. Those tenets are the building blocks of UAB’s “Healthy Alabama 2030: Live HealthSmart” Grand Challenge, in partnership with 90 state and federal agencies and groups.

She believes the program has the makings to propel Alabama from the bottom of national health rankings to the top.

“It takes partnership and everyone being at the table for the collective good of the community,” said Wallace. “Right now, our state is always at the bottom, 48th or 49th, and that’s just unacceptable. It’s time to change our trajectory through our policy systems and improvements. Our goal is to put Alabama at the top, healthwise.”

Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter

24 mins ago

Montgomery launches ‘Feed the Meter for the Homeless’ project

Under the leadership of Mayor Steven L. Reed, new specialized parking meters were installed last week in downtown Montgomery to provide a quick, convenient way to support locals affected by homelessness.

Reed announced the meters were on the way during a recent city council meeting. Called the “Feed the Meter for the Homeless” project, the City’s new initiative is made possible through a partnership with the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (MACH).

The special parking meters are green and offer residents a way to donate directly to support MACH and central Alabama agencies working with those experiencing homelessness in Alabama’s capital city. Donations will be accepted in the forms of coins or cash at each specialized meter and by card through the ParkMobile app (zone 36999) or online payment.

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“The Feed the Meter for the Homeless initiative connects compassion with convenience by allowing Montgomery residents and visitors to support our neighbors affected by homelessness and its devastating ramifications,” Reed said in a statement. “Each donation is a hand-up to help those in need and an investment in building a better future for Montgomery and the River Region.”

For more information on Feed the Meter for the Homeless MGM, please click here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

60 mins ago

Cathy Randall now serving on board of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham

Dr. Cathy J. Randall, chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, is now serving as a board member for The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

The Women’s Fund made the announcement in a recent release, detailing that Randall term’s officially began on January 1. A Birmingham native and Tuscaloosa resident, she is a longtime, prominent civic and corporate leader, as well as the legendary former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama.

Tracey Morant Adams, board chair for The Women’s Fund, said in a statement, “The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham strives to elevate and amplify women’s voices, and we are incredibly fortunate to welcome Dr. Randall to our board as she is a well-established voice in the state.”

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“Cathy’s passion for community service and her experience in building a better Alabama will be a tremendous asset for the organization,” Adams added.

Randall’s service to the state includes being immediate past chairman of the Alabama Academy of Honor and former president of the boards of directors of the American Village, the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and the David Mathews Center of Civic Life, as well as former director of Alabama Girls State.

Additionally, she currently serves on the board of Alabama Power Company and is a former board member of Mercedes Benz USI. Randall was the co-chair of Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee and was named as a Woman of Impact by Yellowhammer Multimedia in 2018.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Sessions responds to ‘desperate and afraid’ Byrne and Tuberville — ‘Sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point’

With Alabama’s U.S. Senate Republican primary headed into the home stretch, the field’s three front-runners are beginning to mix it up among one another.

The first significant shot came from U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who on Saturday went up on air with an ad attacking both his leading opponents: former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has thrown a few barbs as well while on the stump, including one at Sessions that accused him of having “turned on” President Donald Trump.

In a statement given to Yellowhammer News, Sessions condemned the tone of both Byrne and Tuberville, noting their positions in recent polling and describing their tacks as “sleazy.”

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“It is unfortunate that both Tommy Tuberville and Bradley Byrne have abandoned any pretense of running a positive campaign. But it is not surprising: both candidates are trailing in the polls, and when politicians like Tuberville and Byrne are losing, they become desperate and afraid,” Sessions stated. “Both Tuberville and Byrne have quit on themselves and their campaigns. Neither can connect with voters on the merits of their ideas. It is sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point.”

Sessions warned there would be a response if this activity persisted.

“If their baseless, desperate attacks continue, they will be forcefully answered,” he continued.

The former U.S. Senator maintained that Alabamians in this primary will be focused on substantive issues.

“The key issue for Alabamians is who will most effectively and forcefully fight for their conservative values and interests, such as ending illegal immigration, protecting our jobs from unfair foreign competition, defending religious freedom, and further advancing our strong Trump economy.”

Alabama Republican voters on March 3 will cast a ballot for their preference to represent them on the general election ballot in November.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

15 hours ago

Leaders, educators and students gather for Alabama’s 2nd Annual HBCU Summit

Alabama’s 2nd Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit celebrated the state’s 14 HBCUs and the value they bring to higher education across our state and country. Saturday’s event, moderated by Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, was held at Miles College in Fairfield.

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The event kicked off with a panel discussion titled “Women in the Lead: How Six Alabama HBCU Presidents Are Raising the Bar.” The session included comments from:

“Extraordinary panel of women in leadership positions,” Jones said afterwards. “I think they provide unique insights to this. Just an amazing group of women that come from varied backgrounds — they came from academics, but also from business, so it’s a unique perspective that is what is going on with HBCUs but also with higher education in general.”

The panelists touched on a number of topics, including ways to help more high school students and nontraditional students get enrolled, making the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simpler to fill out, partnering with businesses to offer degrees and curriculum the businesses need and working together to elevate the communities they serve.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on is that the benefit of being an HBCU is that … you may not have these large classrooms like you have (elsewhere), but you have teachers that know your name, teachers that care,” Archie said. “We’re going to give you that pep talk when you need that pep talk and we’re going to help you achieve.”

It is that level of concern for students that stood out to Jones.

“These female leaders are so dynamic and so passionate about what they do,” Jones said. “They care so much about their students and their communities. They really represent the best of all HBCUs. HBCUs are the fabric of the communities and I think you saw that reflected here today.”

The summit also featured a career fair and an afternoon panel discussion titled “Student Voices: How Alabama HBCU Student-Leaders Are Lifting Up Their Campuses.” The panel, moderated by Jones, featured students from Miles College, Alabama A&M University, Shelton State Community College, Talladega College and Trenholm State Community College.

“Trying to educate and train the workforce of the 21st century is going to be a challenge,” Jones said. “We’re changing technologically, we’re changing demographically, we’re online — everything is moving in a different direction. Education has got to keep up with that, but also so do businesses. They’ve also got to start reaching out and develop those partnerships to not only train, but to mentor. I think you heard that today.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP field while Jones trails all, Birmingham’s battle over monuments and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is President Donald Trump causing mistrust in government or is he exploiting that lack of trust?

— With new polls out, does Jeff Sessions have the GOP race locked up and does Doug Jones even have a chance?

— Is Birmingham’s mayor boosting his profile while continuing the fight over a Confederate monument?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that claims Alabama is suppressing voters and Merrill’s willingness to take on more responsibility at the Secretary of State’s office.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at the waste of millions of dollars Alabama municipalities spend on “public notices” because of a series of outdated laws requiring publication of voter rolls and public notices in local newspapers.

Alabama Politics This Week – 2/16/20

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP fields while Jones trails all, Birmingham's battle over monuments has no real purpose and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Posted by Yellowhammer News on Friday, February 14, 2020

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.