As the Minority Health and Health Equity Research Center begins 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 health disparities by race, income, education, and geographic location. In Alabama and the Deep South, the impact of these differences is seen everywhere, from the state’s largest cities to its most rural areas.
For 20 years, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center has taken a comprehensive, science-first approach to improving the health of people in historically under-resourced areas—through efforts in research, training and engagement of community.
The inspiration came on a bus trip through the Mississippi Delta.
“We walked by these little houses and there were maybe eight or nine kids in front of one,” said Mona Fouad, MD, director of the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center. “I thought, if we tell a woman who lives there to get a mammogram, how is she going to get there? What other health problems does she face? What about her children? We can’t just tell her to get a mammogram and ignore everything else.”
After returning from that trip, Fouad, Ed Partridge, MD, former director, and Selwyn Vickers, MD, former dean of the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, realized that while genetics, biology, and personal choices play an important role in health and illness, as well as the daily circumstances of a person. Addressing these disparities in a meaningful way would require a holistic approach.
And in 2002, the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center was born.
Through projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, MHRC has been at the forefront of health disparities research, generating more than $165 million to address such disparities. Additionally, since its inception, the center has provided nearly $7 million in funding to 146 health disparity scholars.
To pave the way for future researchers, MHRC’s training programs have welcomed generations of young scientists in the field. By leveraging strong and enduring partnerships with other institutions—including several historically black colleges and universities—MHRC has been able to reach more than 1,000 scholars at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty levels.
As well as the trust built within academia, MHRC’s relationships with communities and partner organizations are critical to the centre’s success. From the beginning, a guiding principle of the MHRC has been that research should be based on trusting, respectful and mutually beneficial relationships that extend beyond one project. Facilitating these partnerships is the center’s team of community engagement professionals who nurture relationships with nearly 200 partners and 100 advisory board members.
While the work done by the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center has been remarkable, it is not done.
“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 inequalities. We must achieve health equity for all populations.”
With that vision of the future, MHRC has changed its name to the UAB Minority Health and Health Equity Research Center.
To celebrate 20 years of milestones, MHERC has created a month-long celebration that begins with programming for each of the focus areas and ends with the culmination of each of these pillars within the center’s winning Grand Challenge program, .
Each week, the hub will highlight one of its pillars with a video, social media giveaway and special email edition.
Health is a complex mix of genetics, biology, personal choices, environment and lived experience. As the Minority Health and Health Equity Research Center begins its next phase, it calls on all members of the community to work together to make health equity a reality.