Almost 2.3 million people in South Africa have diabetes, 79% of people with diabetes live in cities.1

With a population of just under 4.4 million citizens Johannesburg is the largest City and the economic hub of South Africa.2 Urban lifestyles often leave city dwellers with limited time for cooking, so a frequent reliance on processed food and fast food for meals leads to malnutrition and excess weight.3 Close to 90% of those with diabetes are people with type 2 diabetes.

Considering that an estimated 28% of the South African population is overweight and 31% are obese (the obesity rate for men and women is 14% and 42% respectively)4 South Africans and Johannesburg residents are at a great risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle choices.

With Johannesburg having been enlisted as the first African city in the Cities Changing Diabetes programme it means that this now brings together cities across continents in the fight against #UrbanDiabetes.

About Cities Changing Diabetes – Johannesburg

Cities Changing Diabetes was launched in Johannesburg in April 2016 with the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) as the academic partner who will lead the data collection and analysis to overcome the city Rule of Halves.

“We are seeing a decade of metabolic diseases which is becoming a chronic challenge and diabetes being a part of that is a challenge in Johannesburg” – Dr Debashis Basu who is the Academic Partner Lead at WITS and is also the Head of Public Health, Department of Community Health, Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.

Quick Facts:
• Diabetes is the 6th leading cause of death in South Africa2
• The International Diabetes Federation Atlas, 2015 figures reveal that almost 60 to 80 percent of patients suffering from diabetes die before the age of 60 in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• Diabetes accounts for almost one out of every three deaths among the economically active age group of 30 to 40 years1

South Africa’s healthcare system is at present grappling with the quadruple burden of diseases, which comprises of maternal & child mortality, trauma and violence, HIV/AIDS and TB and Non-Communicable Diseases of which diabetes is a part. Left undiagnosed and/ or uncontrolled in a couple of years the threat of diabetes to the healthcare system and South African economy will be dire5

The CCD partnership between Novo Nordisk, the City of Johannesburg and WITS University is but one approach to halting the rapid tidal devastation that is being posed to the city’s and the nations well-being.

1.    IDF. International Diabetes Federation.IDF Diabetes Atlas. 8th edn. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation. 2017.


3.    FAO. ‘Food for the Cities: Introduction’. Factsheet. 2009.

4.    Cois, A and Day, C. Obesity trends and risk factors in the South African adult population. BMC Obesity (2015) 2:42 Link

5. Health Department Speech 2016


Cllr Mpho Phalatse

MMC for Health and Social Development in the City of Johannesburg

Nonceba Molwele

"The research findings are a key component in the fight against diabetes, as they will largely inform all efforts aimed at decreasing the burden of Non-Communicable or chronic diseases caused by poor lifestyle choices in the city of Jo'burg"

Cllr Mpho Phalatse
MMC for Health and Social Development