Studies show that unless social and cultural factors are addressed, healthcare services and public health strategies designed to reduce tackling Type 2 diabetes may prove inefficient.
Findings from the Cities Changing Diabetes research were presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD 2018) in Berlin, Germany. Where factors such as food traditions and traditional gender roles contribute to the increasing vulnerability of Type 2 diabetes in cities.
Thinking differently to tackle Type 2 diabetes
Powered by a rapid rate of increased obesity, diabetes could affect one in nine adults by 2045 – equating to more than 730 million people. Furthermore, within the same time frame, annual diabetes-related healthcare costs, in USA, are expected to increase by 39% from $775bn (~€670bn) to more than $1 trillion, further highlighting the urgency for action.
David Napier, professor of Medical Anthropology at University College London (UCL), UK, explains: “For many years, diabetes has continued to rise at an alarming rate despite the best efforts of policymaker and healthcare providers.”
“In order to turn the table on this devastating and costly disease, we need to think differently and adopt new approaches.”
“When public health strategies and individual care plans take into account the prevailing local cultures and associated conventions and behaviours, they are much more likely to be successful.”
What are the typical factors contributing to diabetes?
With their findings, researchers indicated the following types of social and cultural factors contributing to the rise of diabetes in cities around the world:
- Copenhagen, Denmark: standard medical referral practices acting as barriers to preventive care and services for diabetes
- Houston, USA: food traditions becoming entwined with heritage and culture and often being perceived as providing ‘comfort’
- Mexico City, Mexico: traditional gender roles limiting effective self-care in male-only households, as some men are unable or unwilling to provide diabetes support to others
According to the Cities Changing Diabetes researchers, North America and Europe, where obesity has been rising for decades, are predicted to have the highest expected Type 2 diabetes prevalence but also the slowest future increases. Africa, on the other hand, is projected to see a near-threefold increase in the number of people living with diabetes as the population ages and obesity prevalence increases. Achieving a 25% reduction of obesity prevalence on the continent would result in 15.3 million fewer people with Type 2 diabetes in 2045.
Setting ambitious goals
Cities Changing Diabetes is a first-of-its-kind partnership programme with an ambitious global goal to reduce obesity by 25% so that only one in ten people live with diabetes by 2045.
More than 100 local partners, ranging from city leaders, ministries, academia to diabetes associations, health insurers and business corporations, collaboratively work together to map the diabetes problem, share solutions and drive actions to reduce the rising rates of diabetes.