Community health clinics across the state are aiming to get Mississippians to take two steps more and one bite less.

The Mississippi Primary Care Association, which is an umbrella organization for the state’s federally qualified community health centers, has launched a 65X65 community health center obesity challenge. The long term initiative aims to move 65,000 Mississippians out of obesity by 2065. Nearly 800,000 Mississippi adults and 300,000 children are currently considered obese.

To kick off the effort, 20x65x65 5K races and health fairs are being hosted across the state in 16 towns on Aug. 12. It will be the largest one day multi-5K race of its kind, according to organizers.

Access Family Health will hold its race in Nettleton to celebrate the start of the initiative and the opening of its newest clinic.

“The problem we have in Mississippi with obesity is huge,” said Marilyn Sumerford, the chief executive officer for Access Family Health, which also has clinics in Tupelo, Smithville, Tremont and Houlka. “The race helps us call attention to it.”

The race will start at the BancorpSouth branch in Nettleton at 8 a.m. A health fair will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Veterans Park in Nettleton.

Registration is $10 before Aug. 1, and $15 after. Access Community Health patients can register for $5 at the clinics in Tupelo, Tremont, Smithville and Houlka.

North Mississippi Primary Care, hich has clinics in New Albany, Ashland, Booneville, Walnut, Corinth, Tishomingo and Ripley, will host its 5K in downtown New Albany starting at 9 a.m., followed by a health fair. Because of the support of corporate sponsors, the race will be free. The goal is to inspire the clinics’ patients and the larger community to take steps toward healthier lifestyles.

“Because of their close relationship with health center patients, our health center providers can act as a catalyst to help people become more active,” said Janice Sherman, chief executive officer for the Mississippi Primary Care Association.

Because other local 5K races had been scheduled, Mantachie Clinic isn’t hosting a race on the kick off day, but they held a health fair and community appreciation day on July 15 that drew more than 200 people.

“Obesity affects a lot of health problems,” said Marjorie McKinney, the chief executive officer of the Mantachie Clinic. “As community health centers, we are charged with identifying overweight and underweight patients and conducting counseling.”

Registration information is available for all races at 65x65.com.

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