Leicester is the first UK city to be chosen for the Novo Nordisk-led global initiative Cities Changing Diabetes, which aims to tackle the dramatic rise of type II diabetes in urban areas.

Launched in 2014 by Novo, University College London and the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, the programme is testing ways of encouraging healthier lifestyles via a variety of different community, urban planning and health promotion activities – which have thus far included ‘healthy cooking’ sessions for middle aged men and new screening approaches.

Leicester is an obvious choice as it has one of the largest populations of people with diabetes – almost 9 percent of its residents, well above the national average of 6.4 percent. Living with the condition can slash life expectancy by as much as 10 years, and can also double the risk of stroke within the first five years of diagnosis.

Joining a global network of pioneers exploring new ways of encouraging healthy lifestyle habits should benefit the approximate 26,500 people already living with diabetes in Leicester and thousands more at risk of developing the disease, Novo says.

“Type II diabetes represents a significant challenge, especially in our multi-ethnic city, but a challenge we are committed to meeting,” said Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester and Director at Leicester Diabetes Centre (LDC).

“The launch of the Cities Changing Diabetes programme here in Leicester will be a major boost to help us drive positive environmental changes that could reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes, as well as ensure those with the condition have the right level of support and education to manage it properly.”

The programme aims to hold the rise of diabetes at a ceiling of one in 10 adults living with the condition, which requires “ambitious action” on obesity to drive a 25 percent reduction by 2045 from today’s level of 26 percent of the UK population, the drugmaker noted.

“Cities Changing Diabetes is a once in a generation opportunity to address the complex challenge of type II diabetes. The programme will allow the city to work together and tackle important issues such as obesity and physical inactivity particularly in our young people,” commented Professor Davies CBE, Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester and director at LDC.

“If our football club Leicester City can win the Premier League, then we can work towards a city with reduced levels of type II diabetes as well as ensuring those with the condition have the right level of support and education to manage it properly.”