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Houston Joins Novo Nordisk’s Cities Changing Diabetes Program

Twitter summary: Novo Nordisk announces Houston as new member of Cities Changing Diabetes Program – exciting initiative to combat #diabetes in urban life

Novo Nordisk recently announced (and we were there!) that Houston, Texas will be the first US city to join the Cities Changing Diabetes Program. This makes Houston the third city in the program, following Mexico City and Copenhagen. The program aims to collect data to map diabetes growth and impact in urban areas, identifying the unique challenges that cities present. As context, an estimated 82.8% of people with diabetes live in cities in the US, and globally, people in cities are twice to five times more likely to have diabetes. Armed with that data, the hope is to guide actions and policies to combat the diabetes epidemic. Find more information on the Cities Changing Diabetes Program here and a compelling video here about where our diabetes ecosystem is as far as diabetes and cities go.

In Houston, much of the program’s focus will look at differences between individual neighborhoods, as well as differences between socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups. As the great public health professor Dr. Stephen Linder (University of Texas Health Science Center’s School of Public Health) pointed out at the press conference, the overall diabetes prevalence in Houston is 11%, though in some pockets of the city it’s as high as 20% or as low as 5%. Understanding the differences between these neighborhoods will be crucial in identifying ways to try and prevent diabetes growth in the future. Mr. Stephen Williams, the Director of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services, expressed enthusiasm at the press conference we attended that the data collected through this program could be used to create individualized diabetes prevention plans in different neighborhoods tailored to each neighborhood’s unique needs.

Why Houston? To start, it is the fourth largest city in the US and one in nine residents has diabetes. Moreover, one in three adults in Houston is obese, making obesity the most prevalent chronic disease in the city. Novo Nordisk CEO Mr. Lars Sørensen cited three key reasons behind the decision to nominate Houston as a member city in the program:

  • Houston city leadership has shown commitment to improving health and wellness, such as with the Go Healthy Houston Initiative launched in 2012
  • Houston’s socioeconomic and racial diversity provides opportunities to study a wide range of populations and to positively impact the lives of individuals hailing from a variety of different backgrounds
  • Medical communities such as the University of Texas Health Sciences Center will provide the research expertise necessary to conduct the mapping phase of the program

Houston Mayor Annise Parker also connected the goals of the Cities Changing Diabetes program with the needs of the Houston community – she obviously has enormous commitment to the city and to addressing this problem. She highlighted the recent period of economic growth in the city, warning that the massive direct and indirect costs of diabetes threaten to stall that progress. She expressed confidence that the partnership between Houston and the program will yield substantive recommendations and real action – this is where there is skepticism and it will be terrific to see the action. With approximately two-thirds of people with diabetes in the world living in urban areas, the Cities Changing Diabetes Program has the potential to make a major impact in addressing this rising epidemic in a unique way. –AJW/MV

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