The world is rapidly urbanising, changing not just where we live, but the way we live. Today, the way cities are designed, built and run risks fuelling the health challenges of their citizens.
Urban environments are already home to two-thirds of people with diabetes. This makes cities the front line in the fight against type 2 diabetes – and where we must take action to hold back the alarming rise of the condition.
In 2014, three global partners, Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, University College London and Novo Nordisk, launched the Cities Changing Diabetes programme to accelerate the global fight against urban diabetes. Today, the programme has established local partnerships in 15 cities to address the social factors and cultural determinants that can increase type 2 diabetes vulnerability among certain people living in cities.
The Cities Changing Diabetes partners have modelled what it will take to hold the rise of diabetes prevalence at 10.0% globally, and what this model shows is that we must set ourselves a target of reducing obesity by 25.0% globally by 2045.
At the Cities Changing Diabetes Summit 2017, we made a call to cities worldwide to set goals for what it will take to hold the rise of type 2 diabetes in their city. Meeting these goals requires working together across sectors and disciplines, uniting stakeholders behind a common cause.
We want every city, town and community to have the possibility to set a goal and take action. The Urban Diabetes Toolbox provides new ways to set the goal, map the challenge, understand the areas of greatest risk and vulnerability, and design interventions to halt the rise of diabetes. So now we call on every city to ask itself: What will it take to bend the curve on diabetes in our city?
The aim of the public-private partnership
Realising that no one organisation and no one company can solve the challenge alone the programme is built on a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership opening up for cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaboration. Working together we are setting out to create cities which help us live more healthily, and where people with diabetes can live life to the full.
Cities Changing Diabetes aims to:
From research to action – map, share, act
Today, not enough is known about the dynamics of how urban development can drive diabetes, and how to deliver the potential health benefits that city living can bring. However, with the Cities Changing Diabetes briefing books and the Urban Diabetes Toolbox we can contextualise the urban diabetes situation and give a global overview of the challenges associated with urban diabetes – and to possible solutions tested in the partner cities.
The briefing books and the toolbox materials serve as central documents for the programme when used as strong engagement tools to provide stakeholders with a common understanding of the severity of diabetes in cities.
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 with a shared global goal to bend the curve on diabetes. The programme has three interconnected elements:
We are mapping the problem in a number of ‘study cities’ across the world. In each city we start the programme by generating a body of collective knowledge about urban diabetes: what’s working today? Where are the challenges and the priorities for the future?
We are sharing the results from the cities in order to drive wider action around the world. And we will continuously share what is learnt and connect the dots between cities, so that everyone involved can gain from the experience and knowledge of others – and create solutions for their own local needs. We are using our influence and global networks to drive the issue of urban diabetes up the agenda worldwide.
We are working with partners to identify and scale up solutions to tackle diabetes in cities. The programme enables us to catalyse action. In the study cities, we are playing our part in helping to develop action plans. And across the world the learnings are intended to equip a wide range of partners in taking concerted and focused action on the ground in cities through health promotion and urban design.
Open letter to the world’s city leaders
“Current action does not reflect the scale of the [diabetes] crisis. First-hand experience has shown we need to look afresh at what’s driving the epidemic. If we don’t find new approaches, the threat of NCDs will overwhelm the health systems we depend on, compromise the quality of life we enjoy and seriously constrain the future economic prosperity that cities have the power to drive.
We call on national leaders, mayors and citizens worldwide to make health central to the ‘New Urban Agenda’. In doing so, we must find new ways to design, build and run cities that help people live healthy lives. To achieve this, we need:
1. Greater focus on prevention of NCDs. We must recognize the risks presented by urban lifestyles and build health systems that not only deliver treatment but seek to prevent NCDs more effectively.
2. Urban policies that prioritize health. Health must be built into every aspect of urban strategy where there are mutual benefits – from transport, housing and food to tackling climate change and inequalities.
3. New models for collaboration. We must form new partnerships involving public and private organizations – bringing together national and city administrations, urban planners, health departments, businesses and communities.
We need to get this right. If not, the health of billions of urban citizens is at stake.”
Read the open letter in full
"Urban diabetes demands new ways of looking at old problems. It's a huge tidal wave that's behind us; we really have to do something about it - and we have to something about it now!"
Professor David Napier
The Science Medicine & Society Network
University College London
In the Leading Lights film series seven urban planners, economists, health professionals and urban experts explain their perspectives on urban diabetes seen from their particular field of expertise.
The briefing books are central documents for the Cities Changing Diabetes programme. Together with the Urban Diabetes Toolbox they serve as strong engagement tools providing city shapers with a common understanding of the severity of urban diabetes and the crucial role cities can play in fighting diabetes.
Bending The Curve On Urban Diabetes – New research approaches and innovative interventions for tackling diabetes in your city (2017)
This briefing book presents highlights from three years of research and diabetes action pilots in eight cities worldwide. Looking ahead, we now shine the spotlight on the single most significant driver of diabetes, namely obesity. We have modelled what it will take to hold the rise of diabetes prevalence at 10.0% globally, and what this model shows is that we must set ourselves a target of reducing obesity by 25.0% globally by 2045. Offering an Urban Diabetes Toolbox enabling every city, town and community the possibility to set a goal and take action, we ask city shapers: What will it take to bend the curve on diabetes in your city?
Urban Diabetes – Understanding the challenges and opportunities (2015)
Today, not enough is known about the dynamics of how urban development can drive diabetes, and how to deliver the potential health benefits that city living can bring. This briefing book contextualises the urban diabetes situation and offers a global overview of the challenges associated with urban diabetes, specifically focusing on the social factors and cultural determinants that impacts diabetes vulnerability.
The Impact Assessment - Programme Review 2014-2016
This review investigates the impact of the Cities Changing Diabetes partnership and relevant activities initiated in the period 2014–2016. The review aims to inform the future programme direction by documenting and understanding the impact of the Cities Changing Diabetes approach as well as capturing and sharing learnings from global and local programme activities.