Since 1990, the number of people living with type 2 diabetes has doubled. If all the people living with the disease were a nation, it would be the third most populous on earth with more citizens than the United States.
The dramatic rise in type
2 diabetes has been driven by many factors including the simple fact
that humans are living longer than ever before. But other drivers
can be recognised and addressed, including increasing urbanisation,
less active lifestyles and poorer diets, all of which can contribute
to more people living with obesity, a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
If current trends continue, one in nine adults could have type 2 diabetes by 2045. But meaningful, lasting change is possible and millions of cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented.
The human cost of diabetes cannot be understated. Each year, the disease leads to the death of four million people. That’s the equivalent of one person every eight seconds, half of whom are under the age of 60. Diabetes is also the world’s sixth leading cause of disability owing to its complications including amputations and blindness.
The economic burden of the disease impacts upon countries,
healthcare systems and people with diabetes and their families.
Healthcare expenditure on the disease is estimated to eclipse 750
million US dollars each year, largely driven by the same complications
that shorten the working lives of many people with diabetes, further
impacting upon economies.
Because the number of people living with type 2 diabetes continues
to rise, so too does the cost. By 2045, it is estimated that diabetes
healthcare expenditure will be more than a trillion US dollars.
This future is both unacceptable and unsustainable. As a leader in
diabetes care, we have an obligation to people’s health and a business
interest in resilient healthcare systems that can afford our
innovation for people living with diabetes.
That’s why our focus goes beyond the medicines we produce.
The world is rapidly urbanising and two thirds of people living with diabetes reside in cities – a number that rises each day. The way urban areas are designed, built and run is changing the way we live and, in some cases, increasing our vulnerability to diabetes. That’s why we initiated Cities Changing Diabetes in 2014 in partnership with University College London and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.
We coined the term ‘urban diabetes’ and set out with an ambition to draw attention to type 2 diabetes as a crucial health issue in cities. Working with more than 100 partners across the globe, we’ve undertaken research to better understand diabetes risk and design interventions that deliver meaningful impact on the frontline of the disease.
Globally, 40 million children under the age of 5 are overweight. For many of these young people, overweight can lead to early onset of type-2 diabetes and is a strong predictor of adult obesity.
Children affected by overweight and obesity may face challenges in
thriving and reaching their full potential. Being overweight can
contribute to stigmatisation, poor socialisation and emotional
difficulties and in some cases reduced educational attainment.
The response to childhood overweight and obesity is everybody’s business - governments, civil society, private sector, communities and families. The most efficient solution is to prevent overweight and obesity from developing at an early age. The environment in which children and families live needs to be addressed to ensure access to sufficient and nutritious foods, combined with the promotion of healthy habits and activities for children.
Together with UNICEF, we are working on the prevention of childhood
overweight and obesity. Starting in Mexico and Colombia, but with a
broader regional and global reach and impact, the partnership aims to
‘shift the narrative’ regarding prevention of overweight and obesity
from a focus on individual responsibility to the need for addressing
We believe every child should have the chance to grow well in a
changing world and to fulfil their potential.
Through the Cities Changing Diabetes programme, we have deepened our understanding of what is putting people at risk of type 2 diabetes.
In cities from Beijing to Houston, programme partners have been uncovering the things that are putting their citizen’s at risk. They have been sharing and using these insights to shape new urban health actions and policies, ranging from new city strategies to innovative peer-to-peer support programmes and large-scale screening drives.
Below is a snapshot of activities that take an innovative approach to the old, and stubborn, problem of how to promote healthier lifestyles.
Realising that many Houstonians were not using the healthcare system,
the programme team in Houston, Texas reached out religious and
spiritual leaders to see if they could help.
The result has been a new Faith and Diabetes Initiative, which is training faith-based leaders to deliver diabetes education and awareness to their congregation members.
With type 2 diabetes prevalence far higher in low-income areas, the
programme team in Vancouver, Canada has brought together over 30
leaders from non-profits, the government, healthcare and businesses to
initiate a conversation on the affordability and accessibility of
nutritious and healthy food.
When research showed that the inhabitants of Buenos Aires were
becoming less and less physically active, local partners took action
to rethink how the city’s infrastructure could encourage physical
activity and sport.
Can we change the way society views people living with obesity? Novo
Nordisk CEO, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, explains why a focus on
medical treatment options is not enough and urges everyone with a
stack to consider the implications for type 2 diabetes if we don’t
collectively grip the obesity epidemic.
Your risk of developing
type 2 diabetes is based on many factors - being middle aged or
older, being overweight, or having a family history of diabetes.
Progression is gradual, so you may not even notice the symptoms
until they become obvious.