Newport First UMC has joined with health professionals and other local churches in an effort to reduce the area’s onslaught of diabetes. The new ministry, Jackson County Wellness and Screening, is aided by Unity Health – Newport Hospital; Jackson County Health Department; Jackson County Cooperative Extension; Newport schools; Summit Health care, and people from a variety of congregations who are nurses, diabetes educators, and health care coordinators.
Senior Pastor Kelly Giese shared, “We developed this coalition in response to the visit of Jerry Mitchell, a journalist from Jackson MS, who shared with a couple in our church that Jackson County Arkansas has the highest incidence of diabetes in the United States.”
Equipped with this information, Retha Dudley, a nurse practitioner, and Newport First UMC member felt called to spearhead this coalition to bring forth a positive change for Jackson County. She gathered a team of school personnel, health care workers, hospital administrators, and nursing students from ASU-Newport and Harding University to screen for pre-diabetes.
“If we can catch it early, we can prevent diabetes,” Dudley said.
Pastor Giese added, “The coalition’s purpose is to provide the people of Jackson County with screenings for pre-diabetes and diabetes in order to support community wellness and establish prevention matters. Screenings are being hosted at food banks, local businesses, soup kitchens, and in local parks; offering free evaluation and education to all.”
The church plans to continue exploring healthy lifestyle interests in the city of Newport. They are taking part in the Arkansas Walking College program offered by the Arkansas Department of Health, and have hosted Healthy Eating classes in their fellowship hall through the Cooperative Extension of Jackson County.
Newport First UMC will be hosting a Diabetes Support Group at the church on the first Tuesday of each month, beginning March 14, 2023. This will be lead by Deborah Landers,M.S., C.H.E.S. from the Arkansas Department of Health. These classes serve as building blocks for better diabetes control.