It’s been a tough year for everyone. December is often associated with festive feasting and sometimes over-indulgence. Your author is unlikely to be stinting on either food or wine in the coming month, but it was still highly sobering to be reminded of the following disconnect in a recent email: nearly 700m people globally are under-nourished, but at the same time, some 2bn adults globally are defined as either overweight or obese (per the World Economic Forum). Unhealthy diets have become a leading cause of mortality, killing more people globally than drug, alcohol and tobacco use combined.
The good news is that many businesses are seeking to address this latter challenge and it was with particular interest that we listened to Novo Nordisk’s take on the topic earlier this week. For those unfamiliar, Novo is the leading producer of insulin globally. We see it as logical that a business focused on aiding those with diabetes should also be concerned with obesity, since the global obesity burden is a large part of the cause for rising levels of diabetes prevalence in both adults and children.
Prevention is crucial, per Novo – a view with which we concur. Several initiatives are already underway. Consider that Novo Nordisk has partnered with UNICEF to help prevent incidences of childhood overweight/obesity by enhancing knowledge and awareness. Its initial focus is on Latin America and the Caribbean (where these conditions are particularly problematic). The goal is to enrol over 500,000 within the initiative by 2023. In addition, Novo Nordisk is working with over 30 cities globally in a separate programme called “Cities Changing Diabetes.” Education also lies at the core of this scheme. Only about half of those people classified as overweight or obese currently seek treatment, per Novo.
One other initiative of Novo’s worthy of mention is its intention to provide access to affordable care for vulnerable patients around the world (who may also be those most reluctant to seek treatment). Novo has been engaged in a project mapping vulnerable patients with minority, migrant or displaced populations falling within the remit as well as those with low socioeconomic status and/or limited resources. Insulin has been made (more) affordable in over 70 low- and middle-income countries – with a ceiling price of $3 per vial. Per Novo, no child should die from type-1 (hereditary) diabetes. Progress is being made, but there is a lot still that needs to be done.
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in Novo Nordisk. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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