Corporate Vice President and General Manager, Novo Nordisk UK
Our communities shape our lives, our behaviours and even our health. Can we harness that power to build environments that promote better health and diabetes outcomes for all?
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is driven by complex environmental and cultural factors – including how connected we are to our communities.1 Novo Nordisk is focused on accelerating innovation to defeat diabetes, and we recognise the importance of our partnerships with grassroots organisations to address those crucial social factors.
Local action for a global challenge
By 2030, it is estimated that one in 10 people will live with diabetes in the UK,2 with around 90% having type 2 diabetes.3 The scale of this challenge requires collaboration across sectors and disciplines, focused within communities.
We recognise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to type 2 diabetes management and prevention. Cities Changing Diabetes is a global initiative Novo Nordisk launched alongside University College London (UCL) and Steno Diabetes Center in Copenhagen, to address the increase in type 2 diabetes in urban areas. In 2017, Leicester became the first UK city to join the programme. Manchester followed in 2019.
Reaching communities within communities
In the UK, type 2 diabetes is between 2.5 to 5 times more common in people of South Asian ethnicity than people of white European ethnicity.4 Leicester is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in England, so health interventions must be culturally relevant and accessible. Working with the right partners – with the right expertise and influence to drive change – is essential.
We believe that bringing community partners together to collectively support better health is the way to make a sustainable difference to people living with type 2 diabetes.
The Leicester Cities Changing Diabetes programme, funded by and developed in collaboration between Leicester Diabetes Centre and Novo Nordisk, engages a range of local partners, from Leicester’s Interfaith Council to the Centre for Ethnic Health Research, professional sports clubs, public health and NHS colleagues, to improve health. Initiatives to help address type 2 diabetes in Leicester include ‘Healthy Goals’ – a programme of interactive lifestyle education and physical activity tailored for the South Asian community. To ensure access for all, this includes dedicated all-female sessions to empower women and enable them to look after their health in a welcoming environment.
Tackling diabetes in specific groups
Research has identified a significant gap in men’s health awareness and use of primary health services5 – which can lead to late type 2 diabetes diagnosis. To tackle this, we need to go where these men are likely to be – for example at the football. Working with Everton in the Community, our specialist diabetes nurses have offered pre-match diabetes testing at some of the club’s home games, with plans to do so again. In Leicester, the Cities Changing Diabetes team has also supported community screening events to help identify those at risk of type 2 diabetes, with over 800 people screened already.
With the community, for the community
We believe that bringing community partners together to collectively support better health is the way to make a sustainable difference to people living with type 2 diabetes. This requires an ongoing commitment to become truly embedded in communities, and a willingness to be led by and for their residents. The link between type 2 diabetes and poorer COVID-196 outcomes has made it even more critical to support at-risk communities and Cities Changing Diabetes, and other initiatives, aim to do just that – to support the future health of our nation.
 Schram, M.T., Assendelft, W.J.J., van Tilburg, T.G. et al. Social networks and type 2 diabetes: a narrative review. Diabetologia. 2021;64:1905–1916
 Diabetes UK. 1-in-10 adults living with diabetes by 2030. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/1-10-adults-living-diabetes-2030. [Accessed October 2021]
 Diabetes UK. Diabetes Statistics. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics [Accessed October 2021]
 English S, Tippu Z, Chan T et al. Type 2 diabetes prevalence among people of South Asian ethnicity in the UK. Diabetes & Primary Care. 2016;18:28–32
 Pringle, A., Zwolinsky, S., McKenna, J. et al. Health improvement for men and hard-to-engage-men delivered in English Premier League football clubs. Health Education Research. 2014;29:503-520.
 Barron E et al. Associations of type 1 and type 2 diabetes with COVID-19-related mortality in England: a whole-population study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2020;8(10):813-822