The University of Alabama

UA’s Rural Health Conference Focuses on Fighting Obesity

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Partnering with rural communities to reduce obesity is the topic of the 14th Annual Rural Health Conference hosted by The University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences and its Institute for Rural Health Research.

The conference, “The Weight of our Rural Communities: Partnering to Reduce Obesity,” will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Ferguson Center on the UA campus.

The conference will feature two keynote speakers: Dr. Michael Minor, national director of HOPE Health and Human Services Partnership of the National Baptist Convention USA, the nation’s largest African-American religious denomination; and Ravi Patel, founder of the Nashville Mobile Market. The conference also will offer breakout sessions on clinical, community and behavioral topics.

Minor is an adviser and advocate for faith-based health and wellness initiatives. As a community organizer for 20 years, he has worked extensively on community empowerment and faith-community issues. In 2008, he chaired “Healthy Congregations – Northwest Mississippi,” which grew from a regional initiative to a national one in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Minor has worked with first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative! In November 2012, Cooking Light magazine selected Minor as one of its 20 national food heroes.

Patel founded the Nashville Mobile Market and serves as its executive director. The market is a nonprofit social enterprise that encourages healthier eating and seeks decreases of such chronic conditions as obesity, diabetes and high-blood pressure by providing access to healthy groceries for residents of Nashville’s food deserts. A food desert is a geographic district with limited access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Through a mobile grocery store, the Nashville Mobile Market provides fresh produce, lean meats, dairy products and select nonperishable items. Patel is also co-executive director of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s free student-run clinic.

The conference, as part of its second Rural Health Heroes Awards, also honors individuals who assist their communities in reducing or preventing obesity and promoting wellness.

An active reception will follow the conference and will provide an evening of food, discussion and active education. The reception will begin at 5 p.m. at the University’s Recreation Center.

The annual Rural Health Conference is attended by health-care providers, researchers, community leaders, government officials, policymakers and representatives of faith-based organizations who hear from prominent speakers in the field and share information and knowledge about rural health issues.

The registration fee for the 14th Annual Rural Health Conference is $100 a person and $25 for students and includes breakfast and lunch. Continuing Education Units will be offered. (After Feb. 6, the registration fee is $125 a person and $30 for students.)

For more information and to register online, visit the conference website at http://rhc.ua.edu or contact the Institute for Rural Health Research at 205/348-0025.

The Institute for Rural Health Research was established in 2001 and conducts research to improve health in rural Alabama. The goal is to produce research that is useful to communities, health care providers and policymakers as they work to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of health care in rural areas. The Institute also serves as a resource for community organizations, researchers and individuals working to improve the health of rural communities in Alabama.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.