Overtown Springs Into Health

Heath Fair offers free screenings, access to diverse community resources.

Coral Gables (May 29, 2012) — When Miller School Master of Public Health students Angelica Melillo and Becky Greenfield reached out to Booker T. Washington High School, their aim was to create a sustainable cooking and nutrition program for the students just up the street from the medical campus. Little did they know the monthly program established by the Public Health Student Association would blossom into Overtown Springs into Health, the first of what they hope will become an annual health fair in partnership with the high school.

Held at the school on May 12 and sponsored by Johnson and Johnson Lifescan, Overtown Springs into Health offered community residents free health screenings, as well as access to many diverse community resources, including the University of Miami’s WalkSafe program, Camillus House, and the UM Pediatric Mobile Clinic. Fairgoers also enjoyed free aerobics, yoga, salsa, and Zumba classes, as well as a raffle and several prizes.

For Greenfield, who starts law school at UM this fall, the choice to establish and build on the relationship with Booker T. Washington was a no-brainer. “The Miller School owes it to its neighbors to reach out, and to contribute to the community’s well-being,” she said.

Melillo, the president of the Public Health Student Association who just completed her M.P.H. and starts medical school this fall, echoes Greenfield’s sentiments, but notes there were hurdles along the way. “Trust,” she said, “was absolutely essential and required a real commitment in order to prove our dedication to the community.”

The newly established Community Wellness Coalition, led by the Miller School’s Sonjia Kenya, research assistant professor of family medicine and community health and director of health disparities programs at the Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity, also collaborated on the day’s events. Jamal Jones, a community health worker with the Jay Weiss Center who is working toward his M.P.H., is used to trust-building exercises. “As a part of the coalition, I work with various agencies and community partners to facilitate health and wellness programs in the Overtown community,” he said.

Many fairgoers also took part in the fifth annual Walk a Mile with a Child, which this year opted to use Overtown Springs into Healthas its finish line for the walk that began at Miami’s Gibson Park. Sponsored by the National Medical Association, the walk is designed to emphasize the importance of physical activity.

“The mission for both organizations is similar,” said Cheryl Holder, president of the James Wilson Bridges Medical Society, the local chapter of the National Medical Association. “I hope that we can continue collaborating with Overtown Springs into Healthin the future.”

Beverly Matthews, who was ecstatic about all the offerings at the fair, hopes so, too. “It was way more than I expected,’’ she said. “I thought it was just going to be a walk!”


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Bryan Stepanenko, a UM medical and master of public health student, explains how to run a relay race to some of the fair's young attendees.

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