New diabetes prevention website launched to stop growing epidemic in Asia

The Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative, a joint effort between Harvard School of Public Health and the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, provides science-based evidence for policy makers and public to reverse spread of type 2 diabetes in Asia

For immediate release: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Boston, MA – The rapidly emerging diabetes epidemic in Asia has the potential to overwhelm health care systems, undermine economic growth, and inflict unprecedented levels of disability on the world’s most populous continent. A new website—the Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative—aims to put a stop to this deadly epidemic by offering Asian countries authoritative, science-based information to stop the spread of type 2 diabetes.

The website——a joint initiative between the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), gives the public, health professionals, and public health practitioners quick and easy access to information about the causes of type 2 diabetes, its dire consequences, and what can and must be done to decrease the prevalence of this disease in Asia.

“Asia has become the epicenter of the global diabetes epidemic,” says [[Frank Hu]], professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and co-editorial director of the new website. “By providing the latest advances in research on epidemiology and state-of-the-art practices for diabetes prevention through lifestyle and environmental changes, this website will raise the public’s awareness about this ‘silent’ epidemic and spur urgent actions to address it.”

Created by nutrition experts at HSPH and SSHSPH, including those behind the popular and authoritative websites, The Nutrition Source and The Obesity Prevention Source, The Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative website accepts no subsidies or commercial support from any industry, so that it can deliver an unbiased perspective on diabetes prevention.

The website offers several key features:

  • a thorough, awareness-raising introduction to diabetes in Asia—from which countries have the highest prevalence to why Asians are at higher risk.
  • concise summaries on the causes of type 2 diabetes—giving people the information they need to monitor their risk for diabetes and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
  • strategies for diabetes prevention in key settings—giving families and community leaders roadmaps to help prevent diabetes in their homes and communities.
  • a quick and convenient diabetes risk calculator—giving individuals a personal estimate of their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so those who are most at risk can start changing their habits before it’s too late.

Diabetes is an important health concern in Asia, especially because Asian populations are more vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes at lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than people of European ancestry. However, much of the information on diabetes prevention on the internet focuses on Western settings, for example, foods commonly eaten in Western countries, says [[Rob van Dam]], associate professor at SSHSPH and co-editorial director of the new website. “Our website takes into account risk profiles and dietary and lifestyle habits that are common in Asia and can thus provide more relevant information.”

The large majority of cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable through changes on the individual and societal level. Scientific evidence shows that facilitating a handful of key behaviors could help prevent many cases of type 2 diabetes:

  • choosing healthier foods (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy protein sources);
  • limiting unhealthy foods (refined grains, red and processed meats) and sugary beverages;
  • using healthy oils for cooking instead of unhealthy oils and fats (palm oil, lard, butter);
  • increasing physical activity; quitting smoking; and getting the right amount of sleep.

The Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative website conveys to individuals and communities ways to make better dietary and lifestyle choices and reduce the risk of getting the disease.

“We need to dispel the prevailing myth that type 2 diabetes is inevitable if it runs in the family. The scientific evidence is compelling that type 2 diabetes can be prevented. We need to get the message out loud and clear now before the diabetes storm in Asia worsens,” says [[Lilian Cheung]], director of health promotion & communication in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and co-editorial director of the new website.

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Todd Datz


Harvard School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory and the classroom to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at HSPH teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.