The prevalence of non-insulin-dependent (Type 2) diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) is increasing worldwide. Although recent studies suggest that primary prevention of NIDDM is possible, strategies for controlling the NIDDM pandemic remain under development. Successful interventions to date have mainly relied upon the control of obesity and increased exercise, although pharmacological agents are being studied. While a mixture of both high risk and population-based approaches is likely to be required, the former will not prevent new high risk cases developing. Unfortunately, the success in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease through risk factor reduction has not controlled obesity, the most important risk factor for NIDDM. New strategies are currently being developed and focus upon changes in the food supply of whole populations and a community development approach to altering attitudes to food and exercise. As these interventions are in the early stages of their development, formative, process, and quantitative evaluation remain essential components of any community-based programme aimed at the primary prevention of NIDDM.