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A new course on building sustainable funds for tobacco control programmes has been successfully piloted in Bangladesh.The pilot launched the next phase of The Union’s innovative work to help develop sustainable funding mechanisms that are tailored for the legal and financial context of individual countries – the goal being to secure consistent cash flow for programmes to reduce tobacco use in today’s over-burdened health systems.

Building on 2014’s paper on the subject, the two-day training offers a stepwise and practical approach to setting up a sustainable fund for tobacco control.

‘All countries, even the poorest, have the means to reduce tobacco use if tobacco taxes are increased and adequate revenue is applied to fund comprehensive tobacco control programmes,’ said Monette O’Hara, capacity building officer at The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control. ‘The Bangladesh pilot was particularly timely as a health surcharge on tobacco products has already been introduced. The funds are to be used for health promotion, so the course helped participants determine exactly how this resource will be used and managed.’

The course’s 25 attendees included high-level representatives from Bangladesh’s ministries of health and finance, academics and key members of civil society. During the training they completed a context analysis, reviewed case studies from Vietnam and the Philippines, discussed how to counter tobacco industry interference in their operations and debated the exact parameters and principles of the fund. Finally an action plan was agreed, and a multi-stakeholder collaboration was formed between participants. They committed to launching a Health Promotion Foundation in 2016, and agreed that it would tackle non-communicable diseases, as well as reducing tobacco use.

‘In many countries including Bangladesh, the health, social and economic burden of tobacco is still increasing. Long-term, secure funding for tobacco control is essential to curb this,’ said Lisa Wood, technical advisor at The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control. ’Governments have many competing priorities and struggle to invest the money needed to reduce smoking and its harms, so new ways of finding funds for this are needed. Taxing tobacco is one of the most effective ways of generating an ongoing source of funds for tobacco control and health promotion.’

Following the pilot’s success, the course will now be made available to other countries that have the building blocks in place to develop sustainable funding mechanisms.

‘Development of this fund in Bangladesh will go a long way to encouraging neighbouring countries to follow suit,’ said Dr Rana Singh, The Union’s tobacco control advisor for the region. ‘Establishing such a fund safeguards vital tobacco control work in the long-term. This is good news for both the health of people and economies in this region. We congratulate Bangladesh for taking the lead in this innovative work.'

All attendees were funded through the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

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