Preventing type 2 diabetes

Since 1990, the number of people living with type 2 diabetes has doubled. If all the people living with the disease were a nation, it would be the third most populous on earth with more citizens than the United States.

The dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes has been driven by many factors including the simple fact that humans are living longer than ever before. But other drivers can be recognised and addressed, including increasing urbanisation, less active lifestyles and poorer diets, all of which can contribute to more people living with obesity, a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

If current trends continue, one in nine adults could have type 2 diabetes by 2045. But meaningful, lasting change is possible and millions of cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented.


graphic: Current projection of global type two diabetes prevalence
graphic: Our ambition, halt the rise of type two diabetes
graphic: Our ambition, halt the rise of type two diabetes

What's at stake?

The human cost of diabetes cannot be understated. Each year, the disease leads to the death of four million people. That’s the equivalent of one person every eight seconds, half of whom are under the age of 60. Diabetes is also the world’s sixth leading cause of disability owing to its complications including amputations and blindness.

The economic burden of the disease impacts upon countries, healthcare systems and people with diabetes and their families. Healthcare expenditure on the disease is estimated to eclipse 750 million US dollars each year, largely driven by the same complications that shorten the working lives of many people with diabetes, further impacting upon economies.

Because the number of people living with type 2 diabetes continues to rise, so too does the cost. By 2045, it is estimated that diabetes healthcare expenditure will be more than a trillion US dollars.

This future is both unacceptable and unsustainable. As a leader in diabetes care, we have an obligation to people’s health and a business interest in resilient healthcare systems that can afford our innovation for people living with diabetes.

That’s why our focus goes beyond the medicines we produce.



Action in cities - fighting urban diabetes

The world is rapidly urbanising and two thirds of people living with diabetes reside in cities – a number that rises each day. The way urban areas are designed, built and run is changing the way we live and, in some cases, increasing our vulnerability to diabetes.? That’s why we initiated Cities Changing Diabetes in 2014 in partnership with University College London and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.?

We coined the term ‘urban diabetes’ and set out with an ambition to draw attention to type 2 diabetes as a crucial health issue in cities. Working with more than 100 partners across the globe, we’ve undertaken research to better understand diabetes risk and design interventions that deliver meaningful impact on the frontline of the disease.


Taking action in cities

19 cities
around the world have joined the fight against diabetes

See which cities are bending the curve


100+ partners?
have joined us to create healthier communities

Meet the partners helping to build healthier cities and communities
Social and cultural dynamics

1 toolbox
to help city leaders find solutions to prevent type 2 diabetes

Explore the urban diabetes toolbox

Learn more about our fight against urban diabetes

Go to Cities Changing Diabetes


Childhood overweight and obesity: prevention is key



Globally, 40 million children under the age of 5 are overweight. For many of these young people, overweight can lead to early onset of type-2 diabetes and is a strong predictor of adult obesity.

Children affected by overweight and obesity may face challenges in thriving and reaching their full potential. Being overweight can contribute to stigmatisation, poor socialisation and emotional difficulties and in some cases reduced educational attainment.

A complex issue, where early prevention is key

The response to childhood overweight and obesity is everybody’s business - governments, civil society, private sector, communities and families. The most efficient solution is to prevent overweight and obesity from developing at an early age. The environment in which children and families live needs to be addressed to ensure access to sufficient and nutritious foods, combined with the promotion of healthy habits and activities for children.

Together with UNICEF, we are working on the prevention of childhood overweight and obesity. Starting in Mexico and Colombia, but with a broader regional and global reach and impact, the partnership aims to ‘shift the narrative’ regarding prevention of overweight and obesity from a focus on individual responsibility to the need for addressing obesogenic environments.

We believe every child should have the chance to grow well in a changing world and to fulfil their potential.

See how UNICEF and Novo Nordisk are working to prevent childhood overweight and obesity (PDF)

Read the press release

Visit UNICEF's website and learn about?the State of the World's Children


From medical to social innovation

Through the Cities Changing Diabetes programme, we have deepened our understanding of what is putting people at risk of type 2 diabetes.?

In cities from Beijing to Houston, programme partners have been uncovering the things that are putting their citizen’s at risk. They have been sharing and using these insights to shape new urban health actions and policies, ranging from new city strategies to innovative peer-to-peer support programmes and large-scale screening drives.

Below is a snapshot of activities that take an innovative approach to the old, and stubborn, problem of how to promote healthier lifestyles.?


Faith meets prevention in Houston

Realising that many Houstonians were not using the healthcare system, the programme team in Houston, Texas reached out religious and spiritual leaders to see if they could help.

The result has been a new Faith and Diabetes Initiative, which is training faith-based leaders to deliver diabetes education and awareness to their congregation members.

Learn more about Faith and Diabetes


Tackling food insecurity in Vancouver

With type 2 diabetes prevalence far higher in low-income areas, the programme team in Vancouver, Canada has brought together over 30 leaders from non-profits, the government, healthcare and businesses to initiate a conversation on the affordability and accessibility of nutritious and healthy food.?

Learn how Vancouver is making it easier to access healthy foods


Designing health into Buenos Aires

When research showed that the inhabitants of Buenos Aires were becoming less and less physically active, local partners took action to rethink how the city’s infrastructure could encourage physical activity and sport.

See how Buenos Aries is getting its citizens moving


The relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes

Can we change the way society views people living with obesity? Novo Nordisk CEO, Lars Fruergaard J?rgensen, explains why a focus on medical treatment options is not enough and urges everyone with a stake to consider the implications for type 2 diabetes if we don’t collectively grip the obesity epidemic.?

Learn why it’s time we changed the conversation about obesity



Are you at risk?

Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is based on many factors - being middle aged or older, being overweight, or having a family history of diabetes.? Progression is gradual, so you may not even notice the symptoms until they become obvious.

Take the type 2 diabetes risk test