Raising tobacco taxes lead to success

Veteran anti-smoking advocate Prakit Vathesatogkit was recently elected secretary-general of the International Network of Health Bsics. He speaks with APIRADEE TREERUTKUARKUL about their work and problems in development of health promotion activities around the world.

What is the INHPF’s mission?

Prakit: Finance is the biggest battle
The organization was founded in 1999 to improve the effectiveness of health promotion foundations in member countries through the exchange, mutual learning and joint action. The INHPF also mentors and supports the creation of new health founds in member countries and beyond.

It comprises a network of international organizations participating in the financing of health promotion. The interest in this concept is growing after the countries and regions recognized by the advantages of having a sustainable financing for health promotion.
Currently, there are eight full members from seven countries _ Australia, Austria, South Korea, Malaysia, Switzerland, Tonga, Thailand and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.

What are your main tasks as the INHPF secretary-general? How do you plan to place anti-smoking experience over the past 20 years in practice?
The pposition for two years and plays has an important role in the control of other countries to create their own foundation of health. My first task is to find two new full members to join the network every year. There are some countries where the fund health promotion, but are not members of the network.
Why is it important for the international community to have a foundation of health promotion, as in Thailand?
The Thai Health Promotion Foundation is a good example for other countries, especially low-and middle-income countries to develop appropriate prevention and health promotion programming. Thailand helped Mongolia and Shanghai to develop their foundation of health.

At first it was difficult to establish an organization to promote health independent of the bureaucratic system, because the new legislation was necessary. However, finance is the biggest problem. It took almost seven years to create the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.
We must understand that the work and responsibilities of Health Promotion Foundation, is completely different from the health ministry. We do not provide health care services.

But there are a large number of people engaged in high-risk activities such as smoking, alcohol consumption and drunk driving. This is necessary for agencies to improve the health to work with these people.

The health system is quite passive and is concerned only with those who are already ill. Expenses for treatment in Thailand are increasing every year. We can not solve the root cause of many health problems by investing only in the existing system..
Many developing countries did not pay much attention to health promotion in the past. They thought it was only the work of rich, developed countries.
However, when they saw Thailand could do it, they changed their attitude. Malaysia came in. Then Tonga and South Korea joined. Vietnam and Laos are in the process of creating legislation on health promotion.

Does the global recession have any impact on attempts to establish a foundation of health in developing countries?

The money spent on health promotion, as a rule, only about 1% of the total health budget. The point is how to spend that 1% wisely to curb the growth of health problems. The fact that we are working to help save money and prevent illness, but it is less a priority. Risk factors are not addressed in other countries, and are liable to INHPF..

Although donations from some rich countries are no more, more money is available in many countries. But their tax systems should be modified to work as a programmer for health promotion. The best way is to increase the so-called tax sin. Politicians should play a role in collecting tax from tobacco and alcohol for supporting a health promotion system. They shouldn’t wait for donations.

The Lancet, Britain’s weekly medical journal, released research during the last UN summit on non-communicable diseases showing tobacco control was the single most important measure contributing to the reduction of non-communicable diseases. An increase in tobacco tax can help countries run their health programmer to achieve their goals.

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