Cities Changing Diabetes: curbing diabetes through global and local collaboration
September 13, 2018
Researchers involved in Cities Changing Diabetes (CCD), a worldwide partnership platform that Dr. Scott Lear and CoHeaRT are a part of, met in Rome this past July to exchange ideas, challenges and findings from research conducted thus far. Started in 2014 as a partnership between Novo Nordisk, Steno Diabetes Centre and University College London, the bold goal of CCD is to prevent a rise in diabetes rates by working with a wide range of local partners within cities around the world.
“Its success, as highlighted at the latest meeting, depends on strong partnerships between researchers and local stakeholders, such as health departments, community and charitable organizations, and policy makers,” says Louise Hesseldal, Novo Nordisk CCD global lead, research and evidence. Traditionally, publishing research results is a lengthy process, and in the end, few peer reviewed articles are read by the broader public. This leads to frustration on both sides, as scientists fail to see their work being applied and stakeholders fail to attain accessible information in the timeline they need.
“Instead,” Hesseldal observes, “both sides benefit when information is shared along the way.” Insights such as recruitment challenges or information that goes beyond the research and main study outcome would not be found in publications. Voicing these insights helps improve the process for future studies and can shed new light on the population at hand for the relevant stakeholders. Keeping community members engaged also increases the chances that the research will be applied. This can only happen if all involved parties are in dialogue.
Since two thirds of the current population with diabetes live in cities - a figure that is expected to increase to 75 percent by 2045 - working at the city level gives the unique opportunity to influence the everyday lives of a large number of people. Depending on how a city is organized and built, it can have a positive, or negative, impact on health.
The research - mapping social and cultural factors relevant to type 2 diabetes - done in the first five participating cities and lead by CCD global acedemic lead David Napier and researcher Anna Volkmann, University College London, is the biggest qualitative study of its kind. Results showed that there are a handful of social and cultural factors that increase diabetes risk, and they take on different forms in different places. For example, time constraint is a factor that in Houston, Texas, is the result of people spending a long time commuting in cars or taking care of family members. This limits the amount of time a person can exercise or cook healthy food.
CoHeaRT, alongside our colleagues in Rome, is currently piloting the Diabetes Priorities Assessment Study, a new research method developed based on the vulnerability assessments done in the original cities. The pilot study explores social and cultural factors that impact upon Greater Vancouverites' capabilities, decisions and behavior around diabetes. The results will be shared with patients and community stakeholders, and will help build the evidence base for the global CCD network and other cities doing similar research.