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So said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Regional Advisor for Tobacco Control at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) on the sidelines of the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Liverpool, UK.
While reflecting upon the game-changing successes in the field of tobacco control, he called for broader partnerships among different public-health programmes for accelerating progress in implementing effective tobacco control. He repeatedly insisted upon the importance of working together. "We can no longer work in isolation. We have to work together. We cannot achieve our desired goals if there are vertical programmes alone. People working for TB control, tobacco control, and control of non-communicable diseases (NCD) will have to work together with a holistic approach for the common good. It is the need of the hour to integrate all public-health programmes to fight the menace of communicable and non communicable diseases, which seemed to have married each other and joined hands creating a double whammy of sorts", he said while speaking with Citizen News Service (CNS).
According to Dr Bam, community empowerment is one of the key drivers to tackle the issue of TB, tobacco control and non-communicable diseases. Civil society plays an important role, not only in influencing national policy but also in mobilising the community to change their behavioural patterns. And the media plays a critical role in this. In his home country Nepal, the media took a strong stand against the pro-tobacco politicians' lobby, disclosed their engagement with the tobacco industry and fought for better public-health programmes.This helped to build a strong public opinion, community support and mobilisation against the moves of the politicians. So media and community engagement is a critical element in the fight against tobacco, he said.
Translating sustainable-development goals (SDGs) into action:
At the sub national and community level, most people do not know what the SDGs are about, feels Bam. "We know that SDGs are a package of actions meant to solve the problems of the common people. So we need to engage them. The first thing is to translate the targets of SDGs in simple terms such that the people at the grass-root level are able to understand what they mean. Then we need to engage everyone working at the community level--whether they are faith-based organisations or civil-society organisations. Thirdly, we have to make judicious use of the human and financial resources, that are available aplenty, even in poor countries like Nepal. It is just a matter of mobilising the local resources effectively and engaging the local people to use them properly", said Bam.
Bending political will in favour of public health policies: