BL Harbert International, alongside Live HealthSmart Alabama, a University of Alabama at Birmingham initiative, is facilitated by the UAB Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center. To celebrate community improvements, Bush Hills Connections, Inc. in partnership with Live HealthSmart Alabama and BL Harbert International—is hosting a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 24, 2023, at 2:00 pm at the Bush Hills Connection Complex, 1030 4th Terrace West. The public is invited to attend.
Joining Bush Hills community leaders (Walladen Streeter, Neighborhood President, Joanice Thompson, President of Bush Hills Connections, Inc., and April M. Williams, one of the founding members of Bush Hills Connections, Inc.) and residents at this special event will be Birmingham Mayor, Randall Woodfin; City Council member District 8, Carol Clarke; Birmingham City School Superintendent, Dr. Mark Sullivan; President of BL Harbert’s International Group, Chuck Bohn; UAB President, Dr. Ray Watts; CEO of Live HealthSmart Alabama and Director of the UAB Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center, Dr. Mona Fouad, among other leaders and community representatives.
Our daily lives are framed by policies, systems, and environments which can either support or limit healthy choices. At Live HealthSmart Alabama, we are implementing changes to remove barriers to make healthy choices. With a specific focus on reducing those barriers in education, good nutrition, physical activity, and prevention and wellness, Live HealthSmart Alabama is making good health simple. “To create lasting, sustainable change in the community, we have to involve its residents,” said Dr. Mona Fouad. “Community members are the most valuable part of our framework, and our relationship with them begins with listening.”
“We could not agree more… To build healthier communities, people living in the community must lead the work!”, said Joanice Thompson, President of Bush Hills Connections. “As residents of Bush Hills, we are striving to build a sustainable foundation from within in collaboration with our valued partners. Every community – no matter the economic or social status – has assets that can be identified and mobilized in community work. Bush Hills residents are fully engaged in the planning through executing our neighborhood improvement plan. We are proud of the progress and continue to evaluate and revise our plan as goals are met. We truly appreciate the support and long-lasting relationships we have formed and continue to build. There is no power for change greater than Bush Hills’ residents discovering what we care about and leading the way to building a healthy competitive Bush Hills… Working together we are making a difference!”
Before work begins in a community, the Live HealthSmart Alabama team works to understand and collaboratively address a community’s barriers and needs. Making good health simple means developing a comprehensive plan that can be implemented in cities throughout the state. To test the model, Live HealthSmart Alabama began in four designated neighborhoods. Bush Hills is the third neighborhood redevelopment initiative and was led by BL Harbert International. This project is the culmination of a year-long partnership and implementation.
“Whether BL Harbert International is building a school on a remote island in Indonesia, renovating group homes in Africa, or volunteering at a summer camp in east Alabama, leaving a place better than we found it is part of our DNA,” said Chuck Bohn, President of BL Harbert’s International Group. “In 2020, BL Harbert International was introduced to Live HealthSmart Alabama by UAB. Our organization was honored to be partnered with the Bush Hills Community to bring upgrades to the area.”
Established in the 1920s, Bush Hills is a beautiful, historic neighborhood located on the edge of Birmingham’s City Center. Bush Hills is known for its winding boulevard that showcases some of the City’s most regal and well-preserved homes. It is home to Birmingham-Southern College, Bush Hills STEAM Academy, and now the Bush Hills Connection Complex that included a Community Garden & Urban Farm.
In the 1970s, the neighborhood started to face challenges when the population began to decline. Today, just over 4,200 residents call Bush Hills home and Bush Hills is experiencing an influx of a growing diverse population. Bush Hills like many urban neighborhoods lack essential resources, which includes access to healthy foods, and quality public gathering spaces.
In 2019 residents came together to develop a Neighborhood Improvement Plan. Residents shared their hopes and dreams to create a flourishing healthy community! “Becoming a demonstration zone for the Live HealthSmart Alabama Grand Challenge was a real game changer! Having partners work hand in hand to accomplish goals is a dream come true,” said Thompson.
To facilitate this meaningful project, BL Harbert International renovated portions of the former Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, a space in the community that had been closed for over 10 years. Today, the newly named Bush Hills Connections Complex is a welcoming place for residents, with a community center including a full kitchen, recreation center, auditorium, and courtyard garden patio, and farm stand. Additionally, the complex, includes the Bush Hills Community Garden & Urban Farm.
“The grand opening of Bush Hills Connection Complex reflects what can happen when neighbors work together.” said Walladean Streeter, President of Bush Hills Neighborhood Association. “This project has fostered relationships between Live HealthSmart Alabama, City leaders, partners, stakeholders, and neighbors. I am excited to continue to build upon those relationships in the future. This is more than a ribbon cutting and the revealing of the remodeled building, it represents the power of partnerships, neighborhood pride, and perseverance to achieve a collective goal.
“Once we met with neighborhood leadership, we knew we wanted to continue this partnership; thus the Bush Hills Connection Complex came to life,” stated Bohn. “We look forward to turning the facility over to the residents and watching their vision for the community continue to grow.”
BL Harbert International, the City of Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools, Alabama Power, Goodwyn Mills Cawood, Kirkpatrick Concrete, and other generous partners have upgraded the community’s infrastructure by repairing existing sidewalks and building new ones; installing ADA street ramps and new crosswalks, planting trees, enhancing green spaces, installing outdoor furniture and adding street lighting in key locations to increase visibility.
Live HealthSmart Alabama and its partners are not only revitalizing neighborhoods – they are taking steps to achieve health equity by making good health simple—one person, one family, and one community at a time.
The UAB Minority Health & Health Equity Research Center (MHERC), established in 2002, generates and disseminates research knowledge from biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences to reduce the health disparities experienced by vulnerable populations and disadvantaged communities locally, regionally, and nationally. By aligning research, training, and community outreach, the MHERC advances scientific knowledge about the root causes of health inequalities and delivers real-world solutions to vulnerable communities. The MHERC is a University-wide Interdisciplinary Research Center and a designated Center of Excellence in Health Disparities Research by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).