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Addressing the urban diabetes challenge

International research led by University College London (UCL) as part of the ‘Cities Changing Diabetes’ partnership programme challenges current scientific understanding of the rapid rise of diabetes in cities. The findings suggest that in cities around the world, social and cultural factors play a far more important role in the spread of the epidemic than previously thought.
More than two thirds of the world’s 400 million people with diabetes live in urban areas.1,2 The year-long study for Cities Changing Diabetes, a unique public-private-academic partnership, sought to better understand what makes people vulnerable to type 2 diabetes in cities in order to inform solutions for one of the most pressing modern-day public health challenges. To explore this complex issue, more than 550 interviews were undertaken with at-risk and diagnosed people in five major cities – Copenhagen, Houston, Mexico City, Shanghai and Tianjin.
“By largely focusing on biomedical risk factors for diabetes, traditional research has not adequately accounted for the impact of social and cultural drivers of disease,” says David Napier, Professor of Medical Anthropology, UCL. “Our pioneering research will enable cities worldwide to help populations adapt to lifestyles that make them less vulnerable to diabetes.”
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