The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) www.rwjf.org awarded a three year $2.4 million grant to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) www.uth.edu to create the Healthy Cities Research Hub “Exploring Drivers of Diabetes and Other Chronic Diseases”.
The grant is awarded at a time when the Type 2 diabetes epidemic is threatening to overwhelm health systems. As urban populations increase, aspects of city lifestyles are increasing people’s vulnerability to non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation www.idf.org, 415 million people across the world have diabetes and two-thirds live in urban areas.
The virtual Healthy Cities Research Hub will focus on the social and environmental conditions that impact health in urban settings throughout North America, provide the exchange of knowledge, and then evaluate community-based interventions to improve public health in cities.
UTHealth will collaborate with Novo Nordisk www.novonordisk-us.com, a global healthcare company through their “Cities Changing Diabetes” www.citieschangingdiabetes.com program. This program was developed in partnership with University College London www.ucl.ac.uk and the Steno Diabetes Center https://www.steno.dk/en to understand the social and cultural factors behind the vulnerability to diabetes in urban settings.
The “City Changing Diabetes” program engages with a range of local partners including diabetes and health organizations, city governments, academic institutions, city experts, and civil society organizations. Eight cities worldwide are part of the program. The Healthy Cities Research Hub will work in three North American cities that currently have “Cities Changing Diabetes” programs in place to include Houston, Mexico City, and Vancouver.
The research hub, funded by RWJF, will extract and translate the findings from these community led efforts to help other cities put them into action. This will include developing a framework to evaluate social and cultural factors of health in urban settings, drive action-oriented research, develop activities between researchers and local stakeholders to convert research into new activities, and produce toolkits to inspire other cities.