hunger binge

This Arkansas county has the nation’s highest rate of diabetes


NEWPORT, Ark. – This is the most diabetic place in America.

None of those interviewed knew that. Not even the mayor.

“I didn’t know it until you told me,” Mayor David Stewart said.

And therein lies the problem, said Dr. Bala Simon, state chronic disease director for the Arkansas Department of Health.

Diabetes attacks victims silently, sometimes doing years of long-term damage before the disease is discovered, he said.

Overall, the disease affects 1 in 10 Americans, but here, it’s nearly 1 in 3 — the highest rate in the nation.

The mayor didn’t know that Jackson County, where Newport is the county seat, had the highest rate of diabetes in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He didn’t even know the county had the highest rate in Arkansas.

What he wishes he did know is why.

Mayor David Stewart, pictured here in his office in Newport, Ark., on Aug. 12, 2021, was surprised to learn he’s living in the most diabetic county in America.

Rise in obesity in the Mississippi River Delta

Simon said the main culprit for the skyrocketing rate in diabetes (10 times higher today than in 1958) is the corresponding rise in obesity. Over the past 60 years, the percentage of Americans 20 and older battling obesity has tripled from 14% to 42%.

Other factors also increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, including smoking, binge drinking and lack of physical activity, he said. “The primary reason is the poor diet. A lot of that is the socio-economic status.”


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