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Local leaders from Asia Pacific nations commit to #endTobacco and #beatNCDs

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Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS

Members of Parliaments, Mayors, Governor, Vice Governor and Mayors took part in 3rd Summit of AP-CAT in Singapore to #endTobacco and #beatNCDs
Members of Parliaments, Mayors, Governor, Vice Governor and Mayors took part in 3rd Summit of AP-CAT in Singapore to #endTobacco and #beatNCDs
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Earlier in December 2018, several local leaders from Asia Pacific nations unanimously adopted a strong declaration to combat tobacco use and the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Governor, mayors, vice mayors and vice-governor, in the presence of several members of Parliaments, national government representatives, and public-health experts from over a dozen countries in Asia Pacific region, adopted this AP-CAT Declaration at the 3rd Summit of Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Tobacco Control and Prevention of NCDs (AP-CAT) in Singapore.

Sub-national leaders from Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Laos, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Singapore were the key delegates at the AP-CAT. Over 100 participants from 30 cities in 12 countries of Asia Pacific region took part in 3rd Summit of AP-CAT.

DECLARATION of 3rd AP-CAT adopted by Mayors, in presence of MPs and other sub-national leaders of over 12 countries in Asia Pacific
DECLARATION of 3rd AP-CAT adopted by Mayors, in presence of MPs and other sub-national leaders of over 12 countries in Asia Pacific
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"Mayors and regional leaders can have a direct and positive impact on the lives of millions through good city-level governance. From our previous years efforts, it has been seen that, tobacco-control policies introduced and well-enforced at this level can become a powerful force for national change. We believe that sub-national leaders can play a leading role to curb the rampant growth of smoking [and tobacco use in other forms] and in-turn, reducing rates of NCDs by ensuring public services are managed with protection of public health as a priority," said, Dr Bima Arya, Mayor of Bogor City, Indonesia and co-Chair of AP-CAT.

Global promises need local actions

International commitments for sustainable development "where no one is left behind" are indeed vital but these need to be plugged in the ground realities and translate into positive desired change. That is why such a strong declaration from local leaders of countries which are facing the brunt of tobacco use and NCDs is potentially game-changing. Political commitment is vital at every level and a major determinant of public health outcomes.

All local lead-actors need to unite to translate these global goals into effective action towards desired change. Well-coordinated local leadership is central to effective implementation of health and development policies. Khagaraj Adhikari, Member of Parliament from Nepal and former national Health and Population Minister, said that local actions are the fundamental building blocks to drive nations, regions and the world, towards sustainable development. "We have to make agenda at provincial level, central level and local level leadership is key for implementation." With concerted efforts at all levels, "Asia Pacific region will become tobacco-free" in coming days, said Khagaraj Adhikari.

Ending epidemics is a political choice

Dr Tara Singh Bam, Regional Director (Asia Pacific) of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), said that prevention and control of tobacco and NCDs are the political choices. He echoed what Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, had said earlier this year: "Politics is, in many ways, the ultimate determinant of our health." Decisions made by politicians determine our well-being in so many ways, either way! For instance, strong tobacco control yields major public health, financial and development gains. Weakening tobacco control can threaten development.

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