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Community Health Assessment: Birmingham, Alabama

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The city of Birmingham, Alabama has many positive attributes, but a city with around 211,327 as inner city population and metro-population of around 1.3 million always comes with hidden negatives. Every city has there downsides that may not be talked about as much.

Birmingham has a population of 211,327 with a poverty rate of 30.9%. When the population is broken we notice the city is made up of 72.3% Black, 22% White, and 3.46% Hispanic. (DataUSA, 2015) During the Community Health Assessment we analyzed the Poverty and Education rates that are associated with Birmingham with extra attention towards some of the health disparities such as Quality of Life, Healthy Eating, and Mental Health.

Education is a social determinant of health because it affects the mental health of the community. Lack of education is a well-known problem in America in general, it is also a problem within African Americans. With a lack of education, it is less likely to move up in socioeconomic status. While poverty is noticed almost in every city when you pay close attention, a city with high poverty makes it hard for an individual to feel engaged for educational purposes. The lack of education leads to poverty and poverty can lead to a lack of education.

Education itself can cause a chain reaction because lack of education leads to a decrease in job opportunities. With little to no education, the type of jobs available will not pay well which leads to poverty and low socioeconomic status. Little to no education leads to poverty and can become a continuing cycle within generations of families. According to Mark Kelly, “Poor children are more likely to have a learning disability, to be required to repeat a grade, to be suspended or expelled from school, and to drop out of school.” (Kelly, 2014)

Children in families with low income do not have access to tutors and proper learning materials such as sufficient books and computers. According to The National Assessment of Educational Progress, there is a direct correlation between child poverty rates and lower average scores on achievement tests in subjects such as reading and math. (Kelly, 2014) This has a correlation with little to no resources in low-income areas. Low resources such as no up to date books, a scarce amount of tutors, teachers and after-school programs can make it even harder for children to learn.

This affects those in low-income areas because children who do not live in poverty have access to these resources which makes them more prepared to learn. “Being in poverty decreases the likelihood of getting a good education, the lack of good education increases the likelihood of being in or remaining in poverty.” (Kelly, 2014) The city of Birmingham has many schools so there are opportunities to learn.

Birmingham has 3 universities, 3 colleges, 4 junior colleges, 3 technical schools, 3 religious training schools, 4 business schools and 276 public schools. With these types of numbers, you would believe that education should not be a problem within Birmingham. Education can lead to health disparities such as quality of life, healthy eating, and mental health.

Lack of education can affect your quality of life because you won’t have the money to ensure high-quality living. Low-income areas have low-quality living, high-income areas have high-quality living. Education affects quality of life because if you aren’t educated on the things you need in life to ensure quality living, you won’t be able to obtain quality living. Also without an education, you won’t be able to move up in socioeconomic status which is apart of quality of life.

A lack of education can also lead to poor eating habits or unhealthy eating. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “In Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham… 66% of adults are either overweight or obese. Additionally, 22.1% of third graders in the county are overweight or obese.” (CDH, 2013)

Healthy eating is not promoted in schools as much as it uses to which is why our obesity rates are rising. With the promotion of fast foods and, in Birmingham, southern foods, healthy eating has become a health disparity. Schools do not promote healthy eating in the classrooms with the food pyramids as much. Healthy eating and healthy portions are not taught to children anymore, and the school lunches are often not healthy choices.

Lack of education can also cause mental health problems. If a person doesn’t know what a mental illness is, they can not get help for it. Mental illnesses are common and often go undiagnosed. Mental illnesses can be caused by stressful life situations, medical conditions such as diabetes, use of drugs, and/or a lack of social support. (Mayo Clinic, 2015)

Stressful life situations such as poverty can lead to mental illnesses which brings back the cycle. Lack of education leads to increased likelihood of poverty which leads to mental illnesses. A lack of education can lead to negative health outcomes because if you do not know what a healthy lifestyle is you can not determine what an unhealthy lifestyle is either.

Poverty, or low income, determines the health of a community because poverty leads to a lack of resources which can lead to an unhealthy community. The population percentage of Birmingham is almost equivalent to the poverty percentage in each race. According to Data USA in 2015, with a poverty rate of 30.9%, 78.3% of African Americans in Birmingham live in poverty, 15.3% of Whites live in poverty and 3.9% of Hispanics live in poverty. (DataUSA, 2015)

In homes where income is near or below poverty level hunger, neglect, exposure to drugs or drug-related activities and the inability of parents to help with school work is increased as opposed to homes above the poverty level. (Kelly, 2014) Low-income areas have a lack of tutors, learning materials such as updated books and computers, and after-school programs.

These resources aid a child with learning so if these resources are not available to children in poverty there is no way for the child to obtain proper learning. Being poor creates a lack of resources to not only educational materials but foods and medical care as well. Low-income areas have more fast food restaurants, whereas high-income areas have organic food markets and healthier food options.

Poverty can lead to unhealthy eating because of the increase in fast food restaurants and lack of knowledge of health. If a person doesn’t know what not to eat or what to eat, they’ll eat what’s available. Low-income families have WIC and food stamps to aid families but their choices are not always healthy. For many residents, most food is bought at local convenience stores which have expensive, unhealthy food options. In 2010, Birmingham had 88,000 people living in food deserts. Food deserts are areas where there are no grocery stores or healthy food options within that area.

Although Birmingham has been working on the food deserts with interventions such as The Urban Food Project. There are still many people who can’t afford or get to the healthier food options. Weight control works when combined with healthy eating and physical activity but low-income families do not have access that other families do. Families of high economic status have more access to healthier, more expensive foods and also gym memberships. There are also many unhealthy food options in

Being in poverty can lead to depression which can cause a lack of physical activity. Stress and depression can make a person not want to interact with others. Stress due to poverty can lead to mental health issues. Mental health problems can be caused by stressful life situations, use of drugs, medical conditions such as diabetes and also can be inherited. (Mayo Clinic, 2015) Examples of stressful life situations are poverty and the death of a loved one.

Poverty can cause mental issues due to the stress of not having enough to provide for one’s self or family. Mental health is a major issue because a majority of people do not know how to cope with stress or hard times. Even if a person does not have mental health issues or stress it can be inherited. Mental health problems are seen a lot in African Americans not only due to the amount of African Americans in poverty, but the stress of discrimination and inequality throughout generations have cause mental health issues within the race.

A program called The Urban Foods Project is being run in Birmingham by REV Birmingham that helps with the disparity of unhealthy eating. This project delivers healthy foods to restaurants and local convenience stores in food deserts. This is considered an individual intervention because it is helping feed the 88,000 people in Birmingham who are living in food deserts which are communities.

This project was created in 2014 and has flourished ever since. Birmingham no longer has a bad food desert problem and is getting away from the health disparity of unhealthy eating. The Urban Food Project “aims to build a robust local food economy while creating healthy food access assist corner store owners in the purchasing, marketing, and selling of fresh produce.” (REV Birmingham, 2014)

A policy intervention is being used for mental health in Birmingham is The Mental Health Association of Central Alabama. This association is a nonprofit organization that is organized by a board of volunteers who represent the community. The Mental Health Association aims to improve the quality of life of people with mental illnesses.

They have a rehabilitation program to help people with mental illnesses achieve their personal goals and level of ability. This program is located at the McCoy United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This program will help the health disparity of mental health by providing support through rehabilitation.

An outside intervention that could be implemented into Birmingham is the Illinois Action for Children. The Healthy Food Program helps feed children in Illinois in supporting home-based Family Child Care Providers. This is a federal program so it is an outside policy intervention. This program gives you the foods you need such as rice, pasta, cereal, fruits, vegetables, bread, and meats.

The program will provide families with sample menus, recipe books, and education on nutrition which is not given much anymore. A child can have up to 2 snacks and 1 meal or 1 snack and 2 meals a day in this program which is very good for children in poverty who may not have enough to eat 3 meals a day.

Another outside intervention that helps with the health disparity quality of life is Generation’s Customer Care Program. Generation is a nonprofit organization and their program helps to prepare unemployed people in areas such as call centers, international hotels and customer service in major stores.

This program pairs these people with companies that will move employees in ranking based upon achievement. This program is an individual intervention because it is a nonprofit based within communities.

This program helps the quality of life by ensuring an individual of a job, food, shelter, and benefits. Having a job will increase a person’s quality of life when living in poverty. This program is located in Atlanta, Ga., Las Vegas, NV., Washington D.C, and Wilmington, DE. This program could be implemented in Birmingham to helps this 30.9% of the population that lives in poverty.

In conclusion, education and poverty work hand in hand. Without an education, it is almost impossible to be of high socioeconomic status especially if born into low socioeconomic status. Poverty makes for a lack of resources; without the right resources, children living in poverty can’t get the help they need to understand the learning material. Also, if someone is hungry or worried about their living situations due to poverty, education will not be the main focus of that child or adult.

Poverty causes stress which affects focus; without focus, you can not learn properly. This is why the children living in poverty have lower test scores than children who do not live in poverty. The health disparities impacted by education and poverty can be aided by supplying more resources. If children living in poverty had the resources they need, or even the same resources as children, not in poverty, higher test scores would be made. Better education would create a decrease in poverty rates.

With more money being made, there would be less stress which would decrease the mental health issues. Unhealthy eating can be prevented by an increase in healthy food options within the poor communities.the interventions included will also aid the health disparities which will make for a healthier community within Birmingham. All parts of Birmingham and other cities should be treated equal, this will make for healthier communities.

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Community Health Assessment: Birmingham, Alabama. (2021, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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