Cities Changing Diabetes: Bike-ability and bold goal

14 December 2017


Make the healthy choice, the easy choice

62% of people in Copenhagen ride their bike to study or work. That adds up to 1.4 million kilometers on an average weekday. In fact, according to the latest figures from the city, Copenhageners own five times more bikes than cars.2 But Copenhageners did not just wake up one day and randomly decide ‘I want to become a cyclist’. Rather, the local politicians, urban planners and others shaping the city have decided to follow the mantra ‘make the healthy choice, the easy choice’. That means that people are nudged into choosing their bike or public transport as their preferred way of getting to school or work from quite an early age simply because the bike lanes and local city busses and trains are right there at their doorstep making the healthy choice, the easy choice.

VIDEO: Watch Helle Søholt, CEO from Gehl, explain how Copenhagen is built for people.

It starts with people

‘Making the healthy choice, the easy choice’ is a mantra that resonates in Vancouver. Together with Copenhagen and eight other cities that are partners in the Cities Changing Diabetes program, Vancouver has joined the urban health movement to find new ways of addressing the dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes in cities. At the recent Cities Changing Diabetes Summit in Houston, where city shapers met to share ideas and experiences, Carol Kong, a transportation planning engineer from the City of Vancouver, had this to say:

“Today, health considerations often take a backseat in land use and urban planning. Yet we know the health benefits can be significant when the built environment encourages people to get around in active ways. By being more intentional when we plan and build communities, we can play a bigger role in the fight against diabetes.”

Carol Kong Headshot

Carol Kong, Transportation Planning Engineer, City of Vancouver

In Vancouver this approach is already on track with the Healthy City Strategy, which is integrated with their transportation and community plans. Carol Kong points out that “Health needs to be top of mind and at the heart of all policies. In every aspect of city building, we need to ask ourselves – will people be happier and healthier because of this decision?”

VIDEO: Watch urban planners from Vancouver and other C40 cities visit Copenhagen during the Healthy and Liveable Cities Masterclass

In Mexico City, health benefits are examined from the vantage point of urban climate actions initially intended to address traffic congestion and CO2 emission issues. A recent report3 examines how the introduction of bike lanes, a bike share scheme (EcoBici) and the pedestrianization of Madero Street, a major avenue in the mega-city, benefits both the environment and the health of citizens.

 A bold goal

Putting health at the top of the agenda in cities is one of the priorities of the Cities Changing Diabetes program – that and a global goal to bend the curve on urban diabetes by 2045. Today, estimates show that 437 million people worldwide have diabetes. Fast forward to 2045, estimation puts that number at 747 million.4 It is a catastrophic rise, and the pace is accelerating. To halt this rise, Cities Changing Diabetes has set a bold goal to bend the curve on urban diabetes. Dr. Alan Moses, Global Chief Medical Officer at Novo Nordisk explains: 

“By 2045, no more than 1 in 10 people should live with diabetes. Achieving this requires ambitious action. The biggest modifiable risk factor for diabetes is obesity – and to meet the goal, we must reduce obesity by 25% globally by 2045. If we can do that, 111 million people will have been prevented from developing type 2 diabetes.”4

Alan Moses_speaking_CCDsummit2017_crop

Dr Alan Moses, Global Chief Medical Officer, Novo Nordisk

THE ATLANTIC – GRAPHIC ARTICLE: ‘An emergency in Slow Motion’ illustrates the worst case scenario of the year 2045 if we do not act on diabetes now.

Active transportation is just one of the levers that cities are looking into to improve the health of citizens. The Cities Changing Diabetes program has developed an Urban Diabetes Toolbox with cases from the partner cities presenting new ways of preventing obesity and providing better diabetes care.

Invitation to join the Urban Health Network

If you work with health and urban development as a professional or a volunteer in an organization, we invite you to join the LinkedIn group, Urban Health Network, to inspire and challenge each other’s ideas, good practices and new initiatives.

To learn more about Cities Changing Diabetes, follow #UrbanDiabetes or visit us on Facebook and

About Cities Changing Diabetes

Cities Changing Diabetes is a partnership programme to address the urban diabetes challenge. Initiated by Novo Nordisk, the program is a response to the dramatic rise of urban diabetes and has been developed in partnership with University College London and Steno Diabetes Center, as well as a range of local partners including the

diabetes and health communities, city governments, academic institutions, city experts from a variety of fields and civil society organizations. The aim of the program is to map the problem, share solutions and drive concrete action to fight the diabetes challenge in the big cities around the world. Today, the program represents 75 million citizens in ten cities worldwide: Copenhagen, Houston, Leicester, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Rome, Tianjin, Shanghai, Vancouver and Xiamen.

  1. Accessed: November 2017.
  1. Accessed: November 2017.
  1. Benefits Of Climate Action – Piloting A Global Approach To Measurement. C40 Cities, Novo Nordisk, CDMX. Accessed: November 2017.
  1. Accessed: November, 2017.

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