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Johannesburg joins Cities Changing Diabetes


The city of Johannesburg joins Novo Nordisk’s Cities Changing Diabetes programme and becomes the first African city to join the global initiative.

The addition of the largest city in South Africa as a partner city means Cities Changing Diabetes now brings together six cities across four continents in the fight against urban diabetes.

“Diabetes is ranked 6th among the top 10 leading causes of death in Johannesburg and represents a significant public health challenge here. Joining Cities Changing Diabetes is an exciting opportunity for us to learn more about what we can do to combat this growing condition. We look forward to learning from the experiences of other cities around the world, so that we can create a more liveable and healthy Johannesburg with fewer people at risk of developing diabetes,” says Johannesburg City Member of the Mayoral Council on Health and Social Development Ms Nonceba Molwele.


Cities Changing Diabetes was established in 2014 by founding partners Novo Nordisk, University College London (UCL) and Steno Diabetes Center. The programme aims to tackle the rise of diabetes in cities through three distinct but interconnecting phases: mapping, sharing and action.

In November 2015, the partnership presented findings of first-of-its-kind research that found that diabetes vulnerability in cities is linked to a complex mix of social and cultural factors1- responsible for both putting people at greater initial risk of developing type 2 diabetes and subsequently making them less likely to be diagnosed, receive treatment and maintain good health. For example the study findings showed that in Houston many people link diabetes with lower socio-economic status, while people of all economic classes are in fact vulnerable to the condition. In Mexico City, gender roles were linked to increased diabetes vulnerability among women, who sometimes went undiagnosed after neglecting their personal health.

“We are helping cities to look beyond traditional biomedical risk factors for diabetes to consider why it is that urban inhabitants are at increased risk of diabetes. Working with Johannesburg is significant for the programme as it will provide our first insights into urban diabetes in Africa and crucially, will enable the city to take action for the health of its citizens,” says Global research lead David Napier, professor of Medical Anthropology, UCL.

The programme insights have already informed a decision in February 2016 by Cities Changing Diabetes partner city Copenhagen to establish a new diabetes centre. The centre will enable improved access to diabetes for all citizens including care for vulnerable, hard-to-reach populations identified by the programme’s research efforts. In addition to Johannesburg, Houston, Mexico City and Copenhagen, the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin are sharing insights and taking action as part of the Cities Changing Diabetes programme.