Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation School Health Initiative Celebrates Overtown History

Amid the great music and tasty food available at the first Overtown Rhythm & Arts Festival on Saturday, festival goers learned about the free primary and preventive care services that the Miller School’s Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation School Health Initiative offers to all students at nearby Booker T. Washington High School, and seven other area schools.

“Some parents at Booker T. were not aware we offer these services, so it was a great opportunity to spread the word,’’ said M. Denise Simmons, the health initiative’s program manager who manned an info booth at the festival celebrating Overtown’s rich history. “They were very excited to learn about them.’’

Organized by volunteers from Magic-in-Action, a team in the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program, the festival featured local food, art and entertainment by church choirs, the Booker T. Washington Marching Band, and local and national musical artists.

Founded in 2000, the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation School Health Initiative now operates free health centers at eight Miami-Dade schools. Led by the Miller School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and directed by Joycelyn Lawrence, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine, it emphasizes risk assessment, prevention, and early diagnosis and treatment, enabling children to stay healthy and in school, with fewer absences.

In fact, in schools with Dr. John T. Macdonald clinics, student vaccination rates exceed the state goal of 98 percent of all children, and the average Miami-Dade County rates of fewer than 90 percent of kindergarteners and fewer than 83 percent of seventh graders. Students in John T. Macdonald schools had fewer absences caused by asthma and missed fewer days of school overall.

In addition to the John T. Macdonald Foundation, the Batchelor Foundation and The Children’s Trust are among the supporters of the school health initiative.

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