Last 8-9 September 2011, the Pro-LEAD workshop and graduation was held in Bangkok, Thailand. The 2-day culminating activity was organized by the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Free Initiative in the Western Pacific Regional Office (WHO-TFI-WPRO) and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) through its Southeast Asia initiative on Tobacco Tax (SITT). Country teams from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, Samoa, Tonga and Vietnam had their final projects assessed as to how far they have achieved in their proposals, and given advice by the panel of experts from the WHO-WPRO, SEATCA and the different existing Health Promotion Foundations. Dr. Shin Young-Soo, WHO REgional Director for the WPRO gave the opening message, delivered by Dr. Susan Mercado, regional adviser of the TFI-WPRO. The Keynote addressed was given by Y.A. Bhg. Toh Puan Dato’ Seri Hajah Dr. Aisha Ong, Chairperson of the Malaysia Health Promotion Board(MHPB). Other guests present were Dr. Prakit Vathesathogkit, ASH Thailand Secretary General, Dr. Ayda Yurekli, head of the tobacco control economics unit, WHO, and Dr. Tibor Szilagyi of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control-Convention of Parties Secretariat.
The initial program began in September 2010, via the Regional Workshop on Strengthening Health Promotion Foundations and Tobacco Control in Ha Noi, Vietnam. The nine countries started developing strategic intervention projects to strengthen health promotion foundations and/or raise tobacco taxes. The projects are funded through the SEATCA’s SITT project or the TFI and Health Promotion Unit of the WHO-WPRO.
A mid-term review workshop in April 2011 was subsequently held in Malacca, Malaysia and hosted by the MHPB. Officials from the national government of Malaysia and the State of Malacca were present to welcome the group, as well as key participants from the participating countries.
Raising tobacco taxes is a priority under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The Regional Action Plan for the Tobacco Free Initiative in the Western Pacific (2010-2014) further recommends using a percentage of tobacco taxes for health promotion and tobacco control through health promotion foundations. Health promotion foundations and boards provide an opportunity to scale up health promotion and significantly reduce risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Tobacco taxes can be a source of funding for health promotion foundations and boards.