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By 2050, it is projected that almost 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities, up from 55% today. The fastest urban growth is happening in Asia and Africa, which is also where we’re seeing a rapid rise in people suffering from, and dying of, heart disease.
The impact of non-communicable diseases on the world population’s health is growing. Non-communicable diseases are those that are not directly transmissible from one person to another. By 2030, scientists predict they will account for 77% of the global burden of disease. Cardiovascular or heart disease is the most common type, responsible for 44% of all deaths related to this category.
New research from the University Medical Centre in Mainz, Germany, explores how urbanisation exacerbates the risks of such diseases. Young people are increasingly concentrated in the world’s cities. Their future health is at risk. Can city planning can be harnessed to protect their health?
Karen Hofman and Nicola Christofides write about GDAR research assessing the food environment in primary schools in Gauteng following a voluntary pledge by a large beverage company. This blog post was originally published in The Conversation.
In 2017, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa voluntarily announced that it would stop supplying sugary beverages to primary school outlets. The company also pledged to remove all branding and advertising from schools. The announcement took the form of a letter noting that that Coca-Cola Beverages wanted to play “an active role in addressing rising obesity rates in South Africa, especially among children”.
Childhood obesity is a serious and growing problem is South Africa. More than 13% of children are either obese or overweight. The consumption of liquid sugar is particularly harmful because it is absorbed so quickly into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, sugary drinks and their marketing has been linked to obesity especially among children. Just a single sugary beverage per day increases that child’s chance of overweight by 55%. Similarly, once they become an overweight teen, there is a 70% chance they will not be able to lose the weight.
Professor Vicki Lambert from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) and GDAR has been part of spearheading the African Academic Consortium on Physical Activity for Health, which has released two policy briefs for government about physical activity.
GDAR researchers have been involved in a range of work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 prevention information translated into several widely spoken African languages
GDAR teams up with NCD Alliance and BBC StoryWorks as part of short film series
They’re the world’s biggest killers. Non-communicable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes account for 70 percent of all deaths. But many of these diseases can be prevented and the suffering from their effects, reduced. Turning the Tide is a series of short films about the bold actions being carried out by communities and organisations to take on NCDs. The stories are about the small and significant changes being made for better, healthier lives.
Watch the full series at ncdalliance.org/turning-the-tide/
Citizen science in Cameroon
The GDAR film shines the spotlight on a citizen science study we’re conducting in partnership with young people and communities in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The study seeks to understand more about how neighbourhoods and daily routines affect health.
Healthy Cities: Intersectoral approaches to non-communicable disease prevention in Africa
Held 2-4 December 2019, STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Africa is experiencing a double burden of disease. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease are overshadowing the gains recorded in communicable disease prevention.
But cities in Africa also represent an opportunity to take the lead on re-thinking strategies to turn the tide of this emerging NCD epidemic.
How will changes in the food environment affect communities in Kenya?
This article is an extract from epigram, the newsletter of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, which coordinates GDAR. Read the full issue of epigram 2019 here.
Non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers are a global challenge. In fact they are more common in many low and middle income countries than in high income countries. In the lower income nations, most people with these diseases are of working age, which can leave families destitute and harm development.
The MRC Epidemiology Unit is playing its part in addressing this challenge through its coordination of the Global Diet and Activity Research Group and Network (GDAR). This is a partnership between the Unit and researchers in Kenya, Cameroon, South Africa and the Caribbean, funded through the NIHR Global Health Research initiative.
The Global Burden of Disease study, which tracked trends in consumption of 15 dietary factors from 1990 to 2017 in 195 countries, and is now published in The Lancet, finds that people in almost every region of the world could benefit from rebalancing their diets to eat optimal amounts of various foods and nutrients.
The study estimates that one in five deaths globally – equivalent to 11 million deaths – are associated with poor diet, and diet contributes to a range of chronic diseases in people around the world. In 2017, more deaths were caused by diets with too low amounts of foods such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds than by diets with high levels of foods like trans fats, sugary drinks, and high levels of red and processed meats.
Press Release issued when the GDAR funding was announced in July 2017.
The MRC Epidemiology Unit has been awarded funding by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for a new international research partnership to help combat poor diet and physical inactivity in order to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.
The Global Diet and Activity Research Group and Network (GDAR) will carry out research to help prevent non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which are a major and growing cause of death and disability in low and middle income countries. Two of the most important causes behind the increases in these diseases are unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity, both of which are associated with the rapid economic development that is taking place in these countries.