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Poor nutrition, physical inactivity, poverty—these are all factors contributing to dangerous chronic diseases and the largest health disparities in underserved Birmingham communities.

The Freshwater Land Trust is working to combat these health disparities by joining forces with several local organizations as part of “Birmingham REACH for better health.”

What is REACH?

“Birmingham REACH for better health” is a local coalition of academic, county, and nonprofit organizations working to offer better food choices and fitness opportunities for our neighbors. This project is a partnership led by UAB Minority Heath & Health Disparities Research Center working with the Freshwater Land Trust, Jefferson County Department of Health, REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, United Way of Central Alabama, and the YMCA.

REACH partners are collaborating with each other to help our neighbors make healthier food choices, increase their physical activity, and improve their overall health by expanding on current organizational programs and implementing new programs for the target communities to utilize. For example, by working with REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, we promote the availability of farm fresh produce at local corner stores. We also help the communities move more, with free exercise classes at local YMCA branches, and encourage them to explore the city’s open spaces on the Red Rock Trails to improve their health and well-being.

How is this program possible?

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) won a competitive grant of nearly $3 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund the REACH project. The award is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health-care spending.

This is a 3-year project reaching more than 116,000 people in hopes of reducing the gap in chronic diseases between African Americans and Whites in Birmingham by improving nutrition and physical activity in underserved African American communities.

What is FWLT’s role?

Through the REACH program, the Freshwater Land Trust’s goal is to connect people to the places they want to go and increase access to places to exercise through the Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System. With this funding, FWLT is exploring the health benefits of green space by joining with the REACH partners to develop a local Parks Prescription program. The effort is modeled after successful initiatives from around the country that involve health care providers connecting patients with convenient outdoor recreational spaces in their neighborhood. Research has shown that access to places for physical activity, combined with informational outreach, produces a nearly 50% increase in the frequency of physical activity. With over 100 parks within the City of Birmingham and new trails continually being built, the Parks Prescription program will create opportunities for medical professionals to introduce patients to healthy recreational spaces in their community.
To learn more about this transformative community project visit

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