Mississippi Primary Health Care Assoc.


Special to the Sun

Most times change is good. And sometimes it’s not. Especially when that change is leading to more health issues attributed to obesity. And for several years now Mississippi continues to be on the wrong side of change. Last year, the Mississippi State Department of Health released the 2016 Mississippi Obesity Action Plan. In it they cite that adult obesity in Mississippi has increased dramatically over the past 15 years and is expected to increase significantly in the next 20 years.

Obesity threatens Mississippi’s future! Mississippi has the third highest adult obesity rate in the nation. Mississippi’s adult obesity rate is 35.5 percent, up from 23.7 percent in 2000 and from 15.0 percent in 1990. That is change in the wrong direction and it’s not projected to get better. Mississippi’s obesity rates could reach 66.7 percent by 2030 according to the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Forty percent of Mississippi children are overweight or obese. High rates of obesity in Mississippi cause great concern because overweight children have an eighty percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) 2013 data, a total of 23.5 percent of Mississippi public high school students were obese.

The devastating impact of childhood obesity on the lives of children living in Mississippi is further compounded by high rates of poverty, low rates of family educational attainment and historical social and political challenges. As a direct result of the obesity epidemic, health care professionals are seeing a significant rise in chronic illness in children.

 Obese children are more than twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes as children of normal weight. If current trends continue, experts warn that one of three American children born in the year 2000 and half of all children from ethnic and racially diverse populations will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. We see it every day in our community health centers in Mississippi.

In response to this growing concern, Mississippi’s twenty community health centers have launched the Mississippi Community Health Center 65x65 Obesity Challenge. They recognize obesity as an epidemic in Mississippi that contributes to the chronic health conditions resulting in decreased lifestyle mobility and increased health care costs.


The health centers are taking a long-term approach to reducing weight and increasing healthy lifestyles by launching an initiative to move 65,000 Mississippians out of obesity by 2065. You can find more details about the initiative at www.65x65.com.

As part of the overall program they are hosting the 20x65x65 Race & Heath Fair to kick off National Health Center Week and to encourage our community members to Take One Step Forward and Two Bites Less on August 12, 2017 at sites across Mississippi.  The 20x65x65 Race – One Step Forward, Two Bites Less is a multi-city, multi-5k race and health fair to encourage communities to get out and get active.

Here in Metro Jackson, the 20x65x65 Race & Health Fair is being held at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson, MS with race distances of 5k, 10k and 15k.  Simultaneously as the feature race, many other 5k races are being held throughout Mississippi at local community health centers, making this the largest one-day, multi-5k race of its kind.

We want you to come out and walk, jog or run while learning more about community health centers and how they can help you begin the journey to a fitter, healthier you! Participants at all the statewide events will receive the same t-shirts and finisher medals at each race. In every corner of the state, Mississippi Community Health Centers have embraced the cause to help their patients and communities begin a path toward better health.

They are committed to helping improve Mississippi health outcomes. Proceeds from the feature race and local races will be used to provide healthy lifestyle resources for our patients, future training for providers on exercise counseling, and for matching funds to secure grants as that the program grows. And, for ever paid registration, we can allow a community health center patient to participate for free in a non-competitive non-timed race. This is our first year, but our health centers are committed to the long-term success of this initiative.

Along with the race, community health centers want the public to attend their health fairs where they can receive health screening on the five key health indicators that lead to increased obesity. These include, weight, Body Mass Indexing (BMI), Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Blood Glucose. The public can learn more about community health centers and their primary care services. Providers from Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health (Jackson), Central Mississippi Health Services (Jackson), and Family Health Care Clinic (Brandon) will be on hand to provide health screenings and other valuable services to help families begin a healthy lifestyle. The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame will be open to families during the health fair. We have numerous vendors and exercise demonstrations to compliment the day’s activities.

As the CEO of Mississippi Primary Health Care Association, I know that our providers have a close relationship with their patients, and can act as a catalyst to help people become more active through physical activity counseling and health screenings. Mississippi Community Health Centers are uniquely positioned to be a medical partner for the 65 x 65 Obesity Challenge.

Our health centers are organized as non-profit clinical care providers that operate under comprehensive federal standards. They are in rural and under-served areas primarily serving low-income and under-served populations where we find the highest rates of obesity in Mississippi.  Also, they provide comprehensive primary care where they can adjust fees for health services on a sliding fee schedule according to a patient’s income.

The purpose of a community health center is to improve access to care and serve the community regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. As one of the largest networks of primary care providers in Mississippi, we know it is the Best Cost of Care for Quality Care.

The Mississippi Primary Health Care Association is spearheading the management of the 65x65 Obesity Challenge in conjunction with the 20 community health centers in Mississippi. John Lunardini, Dir. of Communications and Business Development, says “We are so proud of our community health centers who have taken on the monumental task of combating obesity in our communities. For them to develop and roll-out such a large-scale program shows their commitment to seeing Mississippi health outcomes improve now and in the future.” “We are thankful to our partners in this program: Magnolia Health, Dataconnex, Amerigroup and many others. We look forward to forming relationships with more companies as this program grows because it doesn’t stop after the race. Health Centers will continue to ask patients to ‘take the challenge’ and begin the path toward better health,” he adds.

Dr. Rashad Ali, CEO at Family Health Center in Laurel states, “Our community health centers are one of the best kept secrets in Mississippi. Overweight and obese patients are at the highest risk to have a prevalence of chronic conditions that lead to a majority of deadly diseases – heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, risk of stroke and even some cancers.

 Our community health centers in Mississippi want to take a major role in assisting patients by providing them with the necessary health assessments and guidance that can successfully reduce obesity.” In 2014, the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine held a joint symposium to formulate a model for primary care providers to draw from when integrating physical activity counseling into their practices.

Their study showed that less than a third of patients report the receipt of physical activity counseling by their medical provider. Dr. Ali says, “We intend to change that in Mississippi through the implementation of the 65x65 Obesity Challenge.”


WHAT:  The 20x65x65 Race & Health Fair – Take One Step Forward, Two Less Bites

WHERE: Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

WHEN: August 12, 2017 – Race Start - 7:30 a.m.: Health Fair – 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Find other races and health fairs in your community at www.65x65.com. For more information on MPHCA and Mississippi Community Health Centers visit www.mphca.com.

Janice Sherman is CEO of Mississippi Primary Health Care Association.

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