In September 2002, USA President Gordon Moulton requested that the USA faculty explore options for helping the University better address special needs of the population it serves in Metropolitan Mobile and the Gulf Coast Region. Attention was immediately drawn to problems relating to health disparities and health concerns of underserved populations. The gravity of these health problems and the prominence of USA health system's participation in solving them required that they be given priority consideration.
Metropolitan Mobile and the Gulf Coast Region (which includes Southern Alabama, Southeast Mississippi and Southwest Florida) have some of the most desperate health concerns in the country. The health disparities in the region's large African American population in many instances exceed the national average. Similar problems persist in the area's Native American and growing Hispanic and Asian communities. The region also has a growing senior population with unique health needs and concerns that must be addressed as well. These and other special needs of people in the Gulf Coast Region constitute challenges and opportunities for the University of South Alabama to help develop healthy communities and improve the lives of people it serves.
The University of South Alabama is uniquely situated to address the variety of healthcare delivery, education and access issues in its service area. In addition to an expansive offering of health related undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, the USA College of Medicine is the only medical school in the region and is a major provider of continuing education and recertification training for physicians. The University's Hospital System is the region's largest provider of indigent health care and the USA Medical Center serves as the Gulf Coast's major trauma facility. USA Children's and Women's Hospital is a major provider of obstetric, gynecological and pediatric healthcare. The University's Physicians practice groups, institutes and centers also provide an array of specialty medical services (i.e., cancer, organ transplantation, stroke, sickle cell, cardiology, telemedicine, etc.). Moreover, numerous programs and activities were easily identified at the University of South Alabama that have the potential to positively affect the health of Gulf Coast residents. Establishing a mechanism through which these resources can be effectively utilized to support the development of healthy communities in the Region was a much greater challenge.
After extensive research and review a proposal was presented to the University's Board of Trustees September 4, 2003 for the establishment of a Center for Healthy Communities to help overcome this challenge. The Board unanimously approved the proposal for the Center.
The Center for Healthy Communities has been designated as the lead entity within the University of South Alabama for coordinating community education, research, public service and health activities to help eliminate health disparities, fostering access to health care for underserved populations, and enhancing the capacity of individuals to better participate in decision making about their health.
This mission will be carried out through collaborative multi-disciplinary community and university based research, education and training programs designed to help develop "healthy sustainable communities."