Parks Prescription program launches in Birmingham.


Birmingham REACH for Better Health, a coalition working to reduce health disparities in local communities by increasing access to healthy food choices and opportunities for physical activity, recently introduced a Parks Rx at a press conference on September 22, 2016 in Avondale Park.

A project of Birmingham REACH for Better Health, led by the UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (UAB MHRC), the Parks Rx program, is modeled after successful initiatives in the U.S. where healthcare providers prescribe exercise for their patients and direct them to outdoor places to exercise. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Parks Rx aims to connect patients to over 100 parks in Birmingham and surrounding communities where they can be more active. 

“Only 25 percent of American adults get the recommended amount of physical activity and 29 percent don’t engage in any leisure-time physical activity at all,” said Mona Fouad, MD, MPH, Principal Investigator for REACH and Professor and Director of the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. ‘”This sedentary lifestyle contributes to an increased incidence of obesity, which leads to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers,” she explained.

Studies have shown that access to the outdoors and green spaces reduces stress, promotes physical activity, and results in a nearly 50 percent increase in exercise. “Parks, playgrounds, greenways, and trails help keep Birmingham residents fit and healthy,” said Kevin Moore, Director of Birmingham Park and Recreation. “Parks also promote community participation and involvement,” he added.

Parks Rx starts with a conversation between the patient and healthcare provider. Physicians at the Jefferson County Department of Health already counsel patients on the importance of physical activity, but the Parks Rx program solidifies the message into something useful and tangible. After receiving a healthy living prescription, patients are directed to the Parks Rx website with its interactive map where they can search for local parks and green spaces in their ZIP code. The map populates pinpoints for area parks, with links to park details such as amenities, safety, trails lengths, hours of operation and other information. Parks Rx is available in Spanish.

The Jefferson County Department of Health launched the Parks Rx program on July 20, 2016 within its pediatric clinics. According to Mark Wilson, MD, Health Officer for Jefferson County, Parks Rx has been well received by patients, parents of pediatric patients, and physicians. “A parent from Western Health Center said she would be placing the prescription on her refrigerator as a reminder to her family about daily exercise and healthy eating. Another parent said she would use the prescription to increase her own physical activity, “ Wilson said. Dr. Khalilah Brown, MD, a pediatrician at the health department’s Central Health Center remarked, “The Parks Prescription program empowers children and their families to get involved in the health of the entire family.” Children especially like the ability to use the QR code to identify parks and trails near their homes and schools.

The Freshwater Land Trust, Jefferson County Department of Health, Birmingham Park and Recreation, and UAB MHRC worked together through the REACH coalition to bring Parks Rx to reality in Birmingham after studying similar initiatives from national partners in conservation and health. These partners include the National Land Trust Alliance, Kaiser Permanente, the Institute of the Golden Gate and others who are part of a larger network focused on reconnecting people to the outdoors to combat health disparities among children and adults.

“We have the perfect recipe for Parks Rx here in Birmingham,” Libba Vaughan, Executive Director at the Freshwater Land Trust, said. “Just in the city of Birmingham alone, we have over 100 parks for people to enjoy. Birmingham is well placed to successfully launch Parks Rx. We have one of the country’s leading universities, working in preventive medicine and health disparities. We have a county health department dedicated to preventive medicine and encouraging physical activity, and we have a strong conservation ethic in our community that is committed to preserving and promoting outdoor recreation.”

After piloting the program this year, the coalition’s goal is to expand Parks Rx to other local health providers in the Birmingham area.

For more information about the Parks Rx program, visit



About Birmingham REACH for Better Health

Birmingham REACH for Better Health is a local coalition of academic, county and nonprofit organizations, working to offer healthier food choices and fitness opportunities for our neighbors. Funded by a competitive grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the project is a partnership led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) and working with the Freshwater Land Trust, the Jefferson County Department of Health, REV Birmingham’s Urban Food Project, Safe Routes to School, the United Way of Central Alabama and the YMCA.

Your diet impacts more than your heart health. It impacts your whole body. Take your bones, for instance. As you age, they can grow weaker.

Brittle and Weakened Bones

Age 50 and older: 1 in 3 experience fractures.

Age 50 and older: 1 in 5 experience fractures.

What can you do?

  • Include calcium and vitamin D in your diet.
  • Eat bone-healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks per day.
  • Try weight-bearing exercises like hiking, walking, dancing or climbing stairs.
  • Try muscle-strengthening exercises like using weight machines.

To learn more, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Establishing healthy habits now will be important for your kids later. Here are some tips for keeping your young ones healthy:

  • Have regular family meals.
  • Cook more meals at home.
  • Let kids help prepare meals.
  • Provide various healthy snacks.
  • Limit portion sizes.
  • Urge kids to stay active.
  • Be an example and stay active yourself.
  • Take your kids to the park.

Physical activity will help your child do better in school. To learn more, visit

Colorectal cancer can be a problem for African-Americans, particularly if you smoke. Your diet is also linked. So, if you’re 50 or older, you should be screened on a regular basis. To help prevent cancer, remember: Don’t smoke. Eat right. Exercise. And consider these tips:

  • Cut back on red meats (beef, lamb or liver) and processed meats (like hot dogs, bologna and lunchmeat).
  • Cook on low heat. High heat (frying, broiling or grilling) can create chemicals that can increase your cancer risk.
  • Cut back your alcohol use.

For more information, visit the Prevent Cancer Foundation website.

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes. What’s worse, you might be one of them and not even realize it yet. Did you know most people aren’t even diagnosed with diabetes until seven to 10 years after they get it? That’s because it takes so long for the symptoms to get bad. And they get really bad. We’re talking heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death.

So, how do you stay protected? Try this:

  • Lose 7% of your body weight.
  • Exercise five days a week.
  • Eat healthy.

And visit UAB HealthSmart for a health screening, or take the American Diabetes Association's Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test to determine your own risks.

For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association, or contact local diabetes experts at Equal Access Birmingham.

The health gap is huge. If you’re an African-American, you’re at risk. But together, we can close that gap. One person at a time. The UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center provides the critical connection you need. And REACH for Better Health is just one of our initiatives. Learn more here.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s a website to help you plan healthy meals that are easy to make. And best of all, they’re affordable.

Did you know your body is 60% water? Water is critical for digestion, blood circulation and much more. And it’s important that you drink enough.

How much?

While the amount you drink depends on many factors, the general rule is:

Kids: 4-11 cups per day.
Adults: 9-13 cups per day.

Eat your calories. Don't drink them.

Juice, tea, sports drinks and soft drinks are mostly water. But they’re loaded with calories and offer no benefits to you. If you do nothing else, try making water your beverage of choice and see the difference it makes.

Want more information on the benefits of drinking water? Visit this site. (

References: Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Dietary Reference: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC 20006.

Fried chicken, greens cooked in bacon fat and sweet tea are staples of a Southern diet. But according to UAB researchers, those foods will increase your risk for a heart attack by 56 percent.

Cut Back. Don’t Cut Out.

You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods completely. Just eat them less often. Reward yourself every few days — maybe each Sunday — if you’ve worked hard on your diet and exercise all week. Remember, if you make small changes to your diet, you’re more likely to stick to it.

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and lean meats, nuts and beans provide a healthy way to control your weight. Fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases, while also providing essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other essentials. Consider these tips:

Eat fruits and vegetables the way nature provided. Or, use fat-free or low-fat cooking techniques, such as steaming your vegetables.

If you choose canned or frozen goods, pick those without added sugar, syrup, creams or other ingredients that add calories.

To learn more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Small changes can make a big difference. Here’s a list of ways to cut 100 calories from your diet every day:

  • Lighten up your coffee with fat-free milk and sugar-free syrup.
  • Trim fat from beef, pork, and chicken. Remove the skin from poultry.
  • Try slow-churned, reduced-calorie ice cream in place of regular.
  • Replace chips with raw vegetables with your salsa or fat-free dips.

Here are some more helpful tips to help you eat fewer calories:

  • Use a smaller plate, and you tend to eat less.
  • Eat slower. You get too full if you eat your meal in 30 minutes or less.
  • Leave something on your plate. If you feel this is a waste, save it for tomorrow.
  • Don’t eat out of a bag or you’ll eat until it’s empty.
  • Use a tall, slender glass — unless you’re drinking water. You’ll put less in it.
  • Replace colas and energy drinks with plenty of water.

Click here for more from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Thirty minutes. At least five days a week. Thirty minutes will reduce your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and some types of cancer. In other words, you’ll live longer. Follow this chart for adults, or click here for guidelines.

2 ½ hours of moderate activity each week.

  • Fast-Walking
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Raking leaves

Muscle-strengthening at least 2 days

  • Weightlifting
  • Exercise bands

Tip: No matter what shape you’re in, you can find something that works for you. Try breaking your exercise up into smaller 10-minute chunks throughout the day.

There are big benefits to having a smoothie for a meal. Use your imagination and try other leafy green vegetables, fruits and juices for a different taste. Remember to balance the amount of leafy ingredients with smooth ones. Too much kale and not enough avocado and banana will give smoothies a chalky, gritty consistency.

1-2 cups water (to regulate thickness)
1-2 oz. 100% real fruit juice with added calcium or 1 serving of whole fruit
1-2 cups raw kale or spinach
1/2 medium avocado, scooped from skin
1/2 banana, peeled


1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed, to add healthy Omega 3
1-3 Tbsp. yogurt for smooth consistency
1 Tbsp. shredded, unsweetened coconutt

Combine everything in a blender and mix. It’ll be about 200-300 calories and 151- 309 mg of calcium, depending on your ingredients.

Note: Try peeling, splitting and freezing your banana before you use it. It will make a nice, chilled smoothie without having to add ice.

Aside from eating, you’ll be surprised at the difference you can make simply by changing what you drink. Here’s a list of calories in popular drinks Americans choose, along with some preferable alternatives.

Your recommended physical activities can vary depending on your age. Here’s a good guide to follow as you get older.

As we age, our needs change. If you’re getting older, here’s a guide to help you choose foods that have the nutrients you need.

What’s BMI? It’s Body Mass Index, and it’s used to determine whether your weight is where it should be. Use this calculator to determine your BMI. If you fall into the overweight or obese range, don’t worry. Now you know the problem you have to fix. And your goal? Not perfection. Just improvement.

Here’s a treasure trove of delicious items you can try. It includes everything from snacks, dips and drinks, to meals and desserts. There’s even a pizza dish with only 262 calories per serving.

In general, each week, you need about two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise, or an hour and 15 minutes of rigorous exercise. For best results, spread it out. Exercise about three times per week. Here’s a guide to help you plan.

You hear about calories all the time. But what do calories mean and how many should you eat? Well, it depends. In general, men should eat around 2,700 and women 2,200. But many factors can cause that number to go up or down. Use this calculator to determine how many calories you should consume, or consult your health care provider.

Want farm-fresh food at a good price? Visit the 10th Avenue Deli in Kingston. Their REV Farm to Corner Store display is one of several throughout the city, and this location accepts EBT.

Looking for some farm-fresh food at a good price? Check out Munchie’s, right across the street from Avondale Park. Their REV Farm to Corner Store display is one of several throughout the city.

Railroad Park is one of our city’s gems. It has a nice walking trail. It’s safe. There’s exercise equipment and a playground for the kids. Plus, there are various free exercise classes held there throughout the year.

The Stockham Park walking track is short, but it’ll get the job done. Especially if you’re just starting out. Try making 15 laps. You’ll be done in no time. See how fast you can do it. Or, trot around the bases if you prefer. Add a lap each time you go.

Avondale Park is loaded with opportunities for you to exercise. How many laps can you make in 20 minutes? Try climbing the amphitheater stairs five times. Perhaps you’d like to trot around the bases. Whatever your pleasure, do it. The park is there for you, and it’s free.

Join the Avondale Park Walking Group every Monday and Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

REV Birmingham and the Urban Food Project identified certain areas of the city that lacked enough healthy food choices. Then, they went into these “food deserts” and enabled farmers to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other items at a price residents could afford. Look for one in your neighborhood or click here to learn more.

Frankly, these numbers are alarming. But they’re important to know. For instance, of all African-American women over the age of twenty, 77 percent are overweight or obese. Think about that. Three out of every four women. These numbers are killing us, and we must act now. Check out this site to see how you can change your habits.

Did you know you get more than just health benefits from walking to school? Your academics are better and it’s good for the community. Want to know how? Check out the Safe Routes to School website. Plus, learn how you can organize a Walking School Bus in your own neighborhood.

The great thing about smoothies is you can pretty much make up any recipe you want, right on the spot. Throw in all sorts of healthy goodies, blend, and you’ve got yourself a delicious and nutritious treat. Find your favorite ingredients at Munchie’s in Avondale or 10th Avenue Deli in Kingston.

Stretching is important. The better your flexibility, the more you can improve your strength and endurance. Here’s an easy guide for stretching you can do at home or anywhere.

Want to go for a bike ride but don’t have a bike? You do now. With Zyp BikeShare, you can rent a bike for less than $1 per day. You’ll get exercise and save gas money in the process. Look for self-serve kiosks in the city to find your bike.

Eggs are a nutritious option for any meal, and they’re cheap too. Here are three recipes that you can whip up in no time.