As the Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Equity enters its next phase, it calls on all members of the community to work together to make health equity a reality.
Written by: Jessica Snyder
Media contact: Adam Pope
There have long been significant differences in health by race, income, education and geographic location. In Alabama and the Deep South, the impact of these differences can be seen everywhere, from the state’s largest cities to its most rural areas.
For 20 years, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center has taken a comprehensive, science-driven approach to improving the health of people in historically underresourced areas – with research, training and community engagement.
The inspiration came during a bus ride through the Mississippi Delta.
“We walked past these little houses, and past one of them were maybe eight or nine children,” said Mona Fouad, MD, director of the Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center. “I thought, if we tell a woman who lives there to get a mammogram, how is she even going to get there? What other health issues does she face? What about his children? We can’t just tell her to get a mammogram and ignore everything else.
Upon returning from this trip, Fouad, Ed Partridge, MD, former director, and Selwyn Vickers, MD, former Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, recognized that while genetics, biology, and personal choice play an important role in health and disease, so do a person’s daily circumstances. Addressing these disparities in a meaningful way would require a holistic approach.
And in 2002, the Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities was born.
Through projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, MHRC has been at the forefront of research into health disparities, generating more than $165 million to address these inequality. Additionally, since its inception, the center has provided nearly $7 million in funding to 146 health disparities scientists.
To prepare the path of future researchers, the training programs of the CRSM have welcomed generations of new scientists in the field. Leveraging strong and long-lasting partnerships with other institutions – including several historically black colleges and universities – MHRC has been able to reach over 1,000 scholars at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty levels.
Along with the trust established within academia, MHRC’s relationships with communities and partner organizations are critical to the success of the centre. From the beginning, a guiding principle of CRSM has been that research should be based on trusting, respectful, and mutually beneficial relationships that last beyond a project. The center’s team of community engagement professionals facilitate these partnerships and maintain relationships with nearly 200 partners and 100 advisory board members.
While the work of the Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities has been remarkable, it is not finished.
“We have made great strides in understanding the underlying causes of health disparities,” Fouad said. “But, looking to the future, we need to go beyond documenting and understanding the disparities. We must achieve equity in health for all populations.
With this vision of the future, the MHRC changed its name to UAB Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center.
To celebrate 20 years of milestones, MHERC has organized a month-long celebration that begins with the programming of each of its focus areas and ends with the culmination of each of these pillars under the Grand center challenge, .
Each week, the center will highlight one of its pillars with a video, a social media giveaway and a special edition email.
Health is a complex mix of genetics, biology, personal choices, environment and lived experience. As the Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Equity enters its next phase, it calls on all members of the community to work together to make health equity a reality.