Nina Thomsen

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey but is not the capital. It is home to 16 million people (20% of the population of Turkey) and accounts for 27% of the country's GDP.


Around 4 million cars are registered in Istanbul, which creates traffic congestion and acute air pollution.

Istanbul is the only city in the world which is located on two continents, Europe and Asia.

The diabetes challenge in Istanbul

In Turkey 32% of the population has obesity and 12% has diabetes.1 These numbers are among the highest in Europe and they are expected to rise rapidly over the coming years. It is predicted that by 2025 30% of men and 48% of women will have obesity1. The total number of people living with diabetes, which today stands at 6.5 million people, is expected to reach 10.4 million by 2045.2

Istanbul is a major contributor to the high prevalence of diabetes in Turkey. Factors such as the city’s high population density and reliance on travel by car create a complex and challenging environment for diabetes prevention and control.


The focus of the Istanbul programme will be childhood obesity, which is rising at alarming rates across Turkey. By 2030 the number of children aged 5 to 19 living with obesity in Turkey is expected to reach 3.4 million.3 Childhood obesity is not only prevalent in its own right but is also a major risk factor for diabetes. Moreover, studies show that “change of habit” programmes are most effective among younger age groups.

Our ambition is that health promoting programmes in Istanbul, the cultural heart of Turkey, will provide a good example for the rest of the country.


  1. WHO 2018 Country Report:, accessed March 2020

  2. International Diabetes Foundation Diabetes Atlas 2019

  3. Atlas of Childhood Obesity 2019

Istanbul's partners