Proud and humble: reflections on WDF’s first Impact Report

Letter from Sanne Frost Helt, Senior Director Policy, Programme and Partnership, World Diabetes Foundation, April 2024

Looking back on our journey, it is clear that the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) has made some incredible strides since its inception - for people living with diabetes, for health system capacity and for the global non-communicable diseases (NCD) agenda.  

When I started my own journey working with NCDs back in 2003, they were barely recognised as a challenge in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Today, with increased awareness, global targets and UN High-Level Meetings addressing them, NCDs are on the agenda. This is a remarkable achievement in itself – and the statements and examples from our partners reflected in this report show that WDF's contribution has been instrumental in fostering collaboration, policymaking, and action across a complex and ever-changing landscape.  

Over the past two decades, WDF has partnered with international organisations, civil society, governments, and donors to advance prioritisation of NCDs – at global, regional and local levels. Together, we have achieved significant policy landmarks and in partnership we have helped bring much needed health services closer to home. The key words here are ‘together’ and ‘in partnership’ - all our efforts are in partnership with others, it is in our DNA. Therefore, this first WDF Impact Report focuses on the change WDF has contributed to, not on change which can be exclusively attributed to our support – to us, the latter would neither be possible, nor meaningful.  

My conversation with WHO’s NCD Director, Dr Bente Mikkelsen was insightful in this sense. Our partnership has made notable progress in advancing NCDs, demonstrating the power of advocating, together, with one clear voice. The advocacy timeline presented in this report - showing major global milestones on the NCD agenda and how WDF has contributed to these developments – signifies this point. Policymakers are increasingly making NCDs a priority at national, regional and global levels and translating it into action. That to me is impact.  

Similarly, seeing how WDF’s early efforts to shine a light on gestational diabetes (GDM) in India have translated into prioritisation by state governments to the benefit of mothers and their children is a testimony to the impact we have through our partners. And it touches the lives of future generations. As a next step, we are hoping to partner with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA with a view to scaling attention to GDM in low- and middle-income countries. 

In Tanzania – WDF’s longest standing country partnership - the 'Tanzania model' for integrated care reveals the importance of consistency and ownership. It took 20 years to go from a pop-up container clinic in 2003 to a nationwide programme aiming to improve access to care for more than two million patients with diabetes and hypertension this year. It demonstrates an immense ownership and commitment by the Tanzanian authorities to prioritise and sustain this.  

This report has been informed by an external review of the quality of our programmatic data and reporting setup. The review has not only shaped our understanding of our impact but also paved the way for improved data infrastructure in future reporting. Our ambition is to better show the changes that we contribute to through new outcome indicators we have set in place. These now form part and parcel of the data collected in WDF funded projects and will over time enable us to speak more concretely to the outcomes of our support. That said, Rome was not built in a day. It will take some time and must be sensitive to the complexity of change, but it will increasingly form part of our future impact reporting.  

On an ending note, the impact demonstrated in this report makes me proud and it makes me humble.  

Proud of the difference our efforts have made at the policy level and in expanding access to diabetes and related NCD health services all the way to primary care level in many places.  

Humble because our impact could not have been achieved without the collaboration, efforts, and dedication of our many partners and allies.  

I hope you have enjoyed diving into the different stories and elements in this – WDF’s first ever – Impact Report.  

Sanne Frost Helt 
Senior Director Policy, Programme and Partnerships
World Diabetes Foundation