Despite having some of the best quality of life scores in Latin America1, Buenos Aires is suffering from a diabetes epidemic, as the disease rises at an alarming rate. Current estimates show that 8.2%2 of adults in Buenos Aires have diabetes, and as many as 11.3% of Argentinians suffer from the disease3 – with forecasts showing that if action is not taken to stem obesity now, by 2045 15.1%4 of citizens in Argentina, totalling approximately 5.3 million people, will have diabetes.
Moreover, the costs of treating and managing the diabetes epidemic will almost double from current spending allocations of $4.9 billion to upwards of $8.2 billion5 during that short timeframe.
The devastating human and economic cost that diabetes and its complications have on patients, their families, their communities and society, represents an unsustainable burden to the good health of the city, now and in the future.
Taking on the important challenge of addressing diabetes, Buenos Aires signed up to the Cities Changing Diabetes programme in April 2018. Following a presentation of the CCD Diabetes Projection Model by Novo Nordisk, city leaders were motivated to change the course of their city’s health and stem the tide of rising diabetes. The diabetes mapping showed that if determined action was taken now and current obesity levels reduced by 25% by 2045, the city could reduce the number of people with diabetes by more than 1 million. Next, the partnership needed to understand what action would be most impactful.
Research6 showed that a key problem for the inhabitants of Buenos Aires was that the population was becoming less physically active and that levels of obesity, a key contributing factor to type 2 diabetes, were growing.
Expanding urban environments are often not conducive to healthy lifestyles, but solutions exist in the form of the development of a city infrastructure that allows for, and encourages, physical activity and sport.
Buenos Aires is a city that has promoted healthy lifestyles for a long time, and the Cities Changing Diabetes programme therefore fits well with its strategy. Moreover, Buenos Aires continues to campaign to bring about the changes necessary to get its citizens active.
One such campaign, that has been a particularly innovative response to the health challenges Buenos Aires residents face, has been the BA Active City Certification. Under the framework of this initiative, the city’s system of cycle lanes has been improved, and the EcoBici scheme, of free bicycle hires, has become a key mode of transportation for Buenos Aires residents.
Perhaps the biggest public health success story that assisted in the awarding of the BA Active City Certification, however, has been the creation of Estaciones Saludables (healthy stations) around the city. Situated in places people already visit, such as parks, and providing a range of services including free health checks and nutritional advice, as well as lockers for belongings so that people can partake in sports activities nearby, 1.2 million people7, nearly half the population of Buenos Aires have begun to use the stations. Novo Nordisk organised the training given to all the Health Care Professionals manning 40 stations, a total of 120 nutritionists and nurses. The training was given by the LAPDI (Liga Argentina de de Protección al Diabético), one of the most preeminent diabetes patient associations in Argentina.
The teaching standardised the treatment recommendations of the Health Care Professionals who service the Estaciones Saludables, as well as expanding their knowledge around diabetes prevention. Subsequent to their training, the knowledge acquired by the clinicians can be transferred to each of the Buenos Aires citizens’ that visit the stations, strengthening diabetes and prediabetes management and care.
Buenos Aires has been recognised with the Global Active City certification, an award supported by the International Olympic Committee. Novo Nordisk Argentina participated in the audit process with the Global Active Well-being NGO authorities who explained the CCD project at the global and local level. CCD was part of the audit process as one of the key examples of private partners with projects that aligned with the objectives of the Active City certification.
Buenos Aires is the first city in Latin America, and 1 of only 6 cities worldwide, to achieve this award and ensure that its population starts taking the steps necessary to cementing the necessary lifestyle changes needed to combat, and bend the curve in, rising diabetes rates. At the first Global Active City Summit, attended by over 80 key opinion leaders, journalists and members of government, Novo Nordisk Argentina participated as a speaker on a panel focusing on active cities and sustainable development, cementing the commitment to reducing the prevalence of obesity and diabetes by Buenos Aires city.
There will continue to be a strong collaboration with and among local city stakeholders to ensure a continued commitment to create change for the people of Buenos Aires. Specifically, the goal is to continue to strengthen the training given to Health Care Professionals, and to support the LAPDI in its development as a key diabetes patient association in Buenos Aires.
1. Mercer, “2018 Quality of Living City Rankings”, accessed 06/03/2019: available at: https://mobilityexchange.mercer.com/Insights/quality-of-living-rankings
2. Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires: Diabetes. Available at: http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/vicejefatura/desarrollosaludable/diabetes
3. Cities Changing Diabetes. Diabetes Projection Model. Data on file. Novo Nordisk. In: Incentive, ed. Holte, Denmark 2017
4. Cities Changing Diabetes. Diabetes Projection Model. Data on file. Novo Nordisk. In: Incentive, ed. Holte, Denmark 2017.
5. Cities Changing Diabetes. Diabetes Projection Model. Data on file. Novo Nordisk. In: Incentive, ed. Holte, Denmark 2017.
6. Tuñon I. (Coordinadora) (2018). Caracterización de las Familias. Primera Encuesta bienal de las familias de la ciudad de Buenos Aires 2017. 1ra ed. Educa, accedido
2018. Disponible en: http://wadmin.uca.edu.ar/public/20180529/1527595328_2018-Observatorio-
CARACTERIZACION-DE-LAS-FAMILIAS-BOLETIN.pdf (accedido Octubre 2018).
7. Buenos Aires Ciudad Activa, Estaciones Saludables. Available at https://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/desarrollosaludable/estaciones-saludables (accessed March 2019)