Cases of diabetes are accelerating in every part of the world meaning that today, one  in 11 adults live with the condition.1 The report – Bending the Curve on Urban Diabetes – urges governments, city and health leaders to make changing the trajectory of the disease a top global priority in order to ‘bend the rising curve’ of diabetes prevalence.

Bending the curve means holding the rise of diabetes at a ceiling of one in ten adults living with the condition. To do this, ambitious action is needed on the single biggest modifiable risk factor for diabetes: obesity.2 Obesity must be reduced by 25% globally by 2045, from today’s level of 14% of the population in order to bend the curve.1

If nothing is done, the research projects that 1.4 billion adults (22.4% of adults) will live with obesity by 2045.1 This would result in diabetes prevalence reaching one in nine adults – a staggering 736 million people, and almost 300 million more than today.1

The impact of diabetes at this scale would be tragic for individuals, families, health systems and economies. As a consequence, annual diabetes-related health expenditure would spiral to more than 1 trillion US dollars in 2045, up from 775 billion US dollars today, an increase of over 39%.1 And that is a conservative estimate.

In contrast, bending the curve would prevent an extra 111 million people developing diabetes, more than the combined populations of the nine cities in the coalition, and would save society 200 billion dollars annually by 2045.1

The solution starts in cities 

While half of the world’s population lives in cities, they are home to two-thirds of people with diabetes – a number set to rise to three quarters of people with diabetes by the 2040s.3

Responding to the findings, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said: “Action against diabetes has to start in cities. The way cities are designed, built and run is fuelling an urban obesity and diabetes pandemic that is already shortening millions of people’s lives and resulting in billions in healthcare costs primarily related to the cost of treating complications.”

The Cities Changing Diabetes program was co-founded by Novo Nordisk, University College London and the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen. The partnership comprises nine global city partners – Copenhagen, Houston, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Rome, Shanghai, Tianjin, Vancouver and Xiamen – together representing 75 million citizens – to pioneer new approaches to map the challenge, understand the areas of greatest risk and vulnerability, and design interventions that are delivering real impact.

Program researchers are today releasing their findings alongside a bespoke projection tool at the Cities Changing Diabetes Summit in Houston, Texas. The tool enables individual cities to quickly and reliably assess the scale of their local diabetes and obesity challenge to guide future action.

Furthermore, for the first time, the Cities Changing Diabetes program will make publicly available the most innovative and effective approaches from pioneer cities around the world. The ‘Urban Diabetes Toolbox’ arms city and health leaders in any city to create their own action plan to tackle urban diabetes and obesity. 

Before addressing the 300 Summit delegates, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, president and chief executive officer, Novo Nordisk said:

“The urban diabetes pandemic is playing out in every major city around the world and the stakes are high. We’re calling upon all city leaders and their healthcare counterparts to come together to meet this challenge head on. Now is the time to fully measure and understand the local burden of disease and to create local action plans that together can combine to bend the curve on global diabetes. That means taking ambitious action on the biggest modifiable risk factor for diabetes: obesity.”

Cities Changing Diabetes is a partnership program to address the urban diabetes challenge. Initiated by Novo Nordisk, the program is a response to the dramatic rise of urban diabetes and has been developed in partnership with University College London and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, as well as a range of local partners including the diabetes/health community, city governments, academic institutions, city experts (from a variety of fields) and civil society organizations. The aim of the program is to map the problem, share solutions and drive concrete action to fight the diabetes challenge in the big cities around the world.

Today, the program represents 75 million citizens in nine cities worldwide: Copenhagen, Houston, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Rome, Tianjin, Shanghai, Vancouver and Xiamen.

For more information, visit

About Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk is a global health care company with more than 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. This heritage has given us experience and capabilities that also enable us to help people defeat other serious chronic conditions: hemophilia, growth disorders and obesity. With U.S. headquarters in Plainsboro, N.J., Novo Nordisk Inc. has nearly 5,000 employees in the United States. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter: @novonordiskus.

  1. Cities Changing Diabetes. Diabetes Projection Model, Global. Data on file. Novo Nordisk. In: Incentive, ed. Holte, Denmark; 2017.
  2. World Health Organization. Global report on diabetes, Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2016.
  3. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 7 ed. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation; 2015.

SOURCE Novo Nordisk Inc.

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