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February 3, 2010 at 4:07 PM

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Gates Foundation ramps up tobacco control efforts in Africa

Posted by Kristi Heim

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is stepping up the fight against tobacco with a $7 million grant to the American Cancer Society announced today. That follows a $10 million grant to the World Health Organization in December.

Both are aimed at curbing the tobacco industry's inroads in Africa, where cancer is emerging as a serious public health threat in addition to diseases such as malaria, AIDS and TB.

The $7 million, five-year grant to the American Cancer Society (ACS), which has taken on a more global role recently, will go toward managing a health coalition called the African Tobacco Control Consortium.

Consortium members include the ACS, Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative, Africa Tobacco Control Alliance, Framework Convention Alliance, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.


Piles of what global health organizations don't want in Africa.

The consortium will work in 46 countries of sub-Saharan Africa to reduce tobacco use by
helping implement policies such as advertising bans, tobacco tax increases, graphic
warning labels and promoting smoke free environments, in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first public health treaty;

The World Health Organization started a new tobacco control effort in Africa with the help of a $10 million grant from the Gates Foundation late last year. Its goal is to prevent tobacco use from becoming as prevalent in Africa as it is in other parts of the world.

If tobacco use continues to grow at its current rate, it will kill more than 8 million people a year in 20 years, and more than 80 percent of them will be in developing countries, WHO predicts.

"Tobacco breeds poverty, killing people in their most productive years," said Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health. It consumes family and health-care budgets, and where resources are already scarce, "money spent on tobacco products is money not spent on such essentials as education, food and medicine."

For a detailed look at tobacco control in Africa, see Philippe Boucher's bilingual blog here.

I wrote about the Gates Foundation's challenges in fighting tobacco use in China here.

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