Established in 2002 and designated as a 501(c)3 in 2004 with support from the UAB School of Public Health, Congregations for Public Health (CPH) addresses the public health concerns of residents living in neighborhoods within a one mile radius of each church. The CPH vision is to reach out to embrace their surrounding neighborhoods with programs and services to eliminate disparities and achieve optimal health, education, social, and economic well-being.
CPH consists of African American churches located in some of Birmingham’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods. Poverty in these CPH neighborhoods ranges from 44.2% to 68.8%, some of the most serious poverty in the state and the nation. A defined geographic radius of 1 mile surrounding each church includes over 115,000 low income African Americans, including 23,000 school-age children: approximately 60% of Birmingham’s African American population and 80% of its children age 5-18. Ninety-two percent are African American; 1% are Hispanic/Latino; 23% are age 5-19; 48% are 20-54; and 21% are age 55-85. Fifty-four percent of this population is female. In these neighborhoods, 28% of those 25 and older have a high school education and 14% have less than a 9th grade education.
The population served by CPH represents individuals with higher risk rates of morbidity and mortality associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease/hypertension, and diabetes, as well as lifestyle behaviors such as lack of exercise and good nutrition. Young children in particular are affected by the obesity epidemic as it relates to access to nutritious food and opportunities for environmentally safe physical activity. Disparities in education and income also have a negative impact on this population. They are largely uninsured or underinsured and have other issues related to access to care such as lack of transportation, lack of wellness and sick leave benefits, and inadequate distribution of health care providers, particularly in the area of primary care.
Lack of ability to access and understand readily available health information related to prevention and disease control also negatively impacts this population. CPH builds on the experience of CPH Neighborhood Outreach Specialists (NOSeys), who are hired by CPH to administratively manage operations, communications, program activities, and community outreach within each church’s one-mile radius. Each NOSey completes over 40 hours of Community Health Advisor core skills training and maintains certification from the UAB Institutional Review Board to participate in research projects. NOSeys educate the community; recruit participants for various research projects; serve as primary data collectors; and implement best practice programs.
The following grant-funded and community outreach program activities have been implemented by Congregations for Public Health: