In a nutshell, the Cities Changing Diabetes programme seeks to find new ways to look at how cities can break the increase in type 2 diabetes in urban areas.
Today, two-thirds of the 415 million people with diabetes live in cities. If this trend continues, as many as 642 million people will have diabetes by 2040 – three out of four people will live in urban areas.
Urban diabetes is an emergency in slow motion, but its growth is not inevitable. Cities Changing Diabetes is a commitment to push for urgent action on a global scale. When city leaders, urban planners, businesses, healthcare professionals, academics and community leaders pull together, cities can be transformed into healthier places to live, work and play – significantly reducing the risk of urban diabetes.
A partnership approach
Cities Changing Diabetes is a first-of-its-kind partnership platform for cross-disciplinary, cross-sector collaboration. No single organisation can solve the challenge alone, so the programme is built on public-private partnerships between key stakeholders. The three global partners are University College London (UCL), Steno Diabetes Center and Novo Nordisk, a global leader in diabetes care. At city level, more than 100 partners from mayor’s offices, universities, health centres and local church groups are involved in the programme.
The programme is structured to understand the driving factors behind the rise of diabetes in urban areas, and to share that knowledge and apply it to real-world solutions. As such, it is built upon three interconnected elements:
- MAPPING: Urban diabetes is mapped in five global study cities – Mexico City, Houston, Copenhagen, Shanghai and Tianjin. Johannesburg joined the programme in April 2016 and is currently in the early mapping phase. Vancouver is set to join the programme on World Diabetes Day later this year. A body of collective knowledge has been generated, helping to define current challenges and future priorities in the cities.
- SHARING: The results from the study cities are shared to drive wider action across the globe. The first Global Cities Changing Diabetes Summit was held in Copenhagen in November 2015. Presentations and urban diabetes study results are available online. A new global summit is currently being planned for 2016.
- ACTION: Identifying and scaling up solutions to tackling diabetes in the cities is the programme’s ultimate goal. In the study cities, the global partners are working together to develop concrete action plans and implementing those actions in the cities in collaboration with local partners across the cities. The actions can be applied in other urban areas around the world.
Why is urban diabetes important?
Putting urban diabetes at the top of the global healthcare agenda is crucial. Experience has shown that it is possible to have significant impact on the rising prevalence of this potentially devastating disease when healthcare systems are mobilised to recognise it as an urgent priority. City leaders play a pivotal role in shaping local health care systems. Those designing and managing cities for the future also have an important role to play, as smarter urban planning can help to deliver considerable health improvements through intelligent design.
Today, not enough is known about how urban development drives diabetes, nor how we can deliver the potential health benefits that city living can bring. But much is already being done on the ground in urban areas to tackle diabetes, and we must now seize the opportunity to bring together learnings from these activities to build a clearer picture of how to stop this emergency in slow motion.
To learn more about urban diabetes
VIDEO: Watch Fareed Zakaria, journalist and author, explain the socio-economic burden of urban diabetes
VIDEO: Watch Helle Søholt, CEO at Gehl Architects, explain why she sees urban planning as the solution to urban diabetes.
 IDF Diabetes Atlas. Diabetes: Facts & Figures, International Diabetes Federation 2015. 7th edition.
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