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Expert opinion to establish Health Promotion Foundation for disease prevention

Tobacco control in Bangladesh Due to unhealthy food habit and lifestyle, smoking and addiction to tobacco, drug addiction and unplanned urbanization; Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs; heart attack, stroke, various cancers, diabetes) are rapidly increasing in Bangladesh. According to World Health Organization (WHO) study in 2010, among Bangladeshi population, 98.7% at least one, 77.4% two and 28.3% have three NCDs risk. Moreover, 17.9% and 3.9% people are being victim of high blood pressure and diabetes respectively.

Treatments of NCDs are expensive and take a long time. More over the diseases are fatal. So the importance should be emphasized on prevention of NCDs. Government has formulated National Health Policy focusing on prevention and United Nations has conducted world conference on NCDs. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh had participated there.

To implement National Health Policy, to materialize the global commitment of Bangladesh to prevent diseases and for the welfare of public health; it is important to establish Health Promotion Foundation.
Today on 11 am Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust had organized a view exchange meeting at Koiborto conference room and experts of health sectors have expressed opinion on establishing Health Promotion Foundation.

Saifuddin Ahmed, coordinator of the Bangladesh Anti Tobacco Alliance (BATA), chaired the view exchange meeting entitled “Stop Illicit Tobacco Trade and Establish Health Promotion Foundation.” The meeting was held to observe forthcoming World No Tobacco Day on 31st May, 2015.

Roxana Quader, additional secretary (public health and world health), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, was the chief guest. Prof. Dr. Sohel Reza Chowdhury, organizing secretary, United Forum against Tobacco (UFAT) and Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam, Technical Consultant, The International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases were spoke. Global public health expert Debra Efroymson, Regional Director, HealthBridge Canada presented keynote paper based on international experience.

In the paper Debra Efroymson said that to ensure a healthy environment for people we need to work on various things. State should take the key responsible to ban harmful foods. It is a positive initiative of government that they have imposed surcharge upon tobacco. Besides it is necessary to impose tax upon soft drinks, chemical juice, energy drinks, junk food (chips and frozen food etc) and fast food.

It is also important to impose tax upon bottled mineral water and private cars because they are harmful for environment and health. It is necessary to utilize the money, accumulated from surcharge, to establish Health Promotion Foundation. Many countries of the world including Thailand have Health Promotion Foundation and working on diseases prevention.

Roksana Kader said that government is focusing on disease prevention. Tobacco control is a part of it. It is yet to decide that how the money from surcharge will be spent. Health Promotion Foundation can be a good initiative and we will consider it with importance. National Bureau of Revenue has been informed to increase taxes upon tobacco products.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken initiative to observe World No tobacco Day, 31st May. Government, along with non-governmental organizations, media, civil society are working on tobacco control.
Prof. Dr. Sohel Reza Chowdhury supported the idea o establishing Health Promotion Foundation.

He also said that surcharge should be imposed on foods with added salt, sugar and fat and surcharge must be spent on disease prevention. Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam said that illness of people have negative impact on personal and national production. So to ensure growth of a country it is important to focus disease on prevention.
Saifuddin Ahmed said that tobacco companies try to avoid tax.

They are linked with illicit trade. According to law the warnings should be in Bangla otherwise no tobacco products can be sold. But cigarettes of other countries are available in Bangladesh. Government should take strong initiative to stop illicit trade of tobacco.
Other speakers said that, we have many successes in tobacco control and also many obstacles. Tobacco companies are violating laws. They should be brought under punishment.

Aminul Islam Sujon, program coordinator, WBB Trust moderated this meeting. While Aminul Islam Bokul, executive director of Action in Development (AID), Ibnul Sayed Rana, chairman of Nirapad Development Foundation, AKM Maksud, executive director of Gram Bangla Unnayan Committee, Samia Afrin, program manager of Naripokkho, Md. Bazlur Rahman, assistant professor of Dhaka International University and members secretary of Tobacco Control Research Cell, Md Shamsul Alam, director of ACLAB, AKM Khaliullah, program manager of National Anti Tuberculosis Association of Bangladesh (NATAB) etc were present in the meeting.

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