Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Education, Education, Education: the global reach of tobacco control training

Increasingly you can get good training in tobacco control in different parts of the world: today we feature India and Romania.

The Public Health Foundation of India, in cooperation with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California offers three-month courses tailored to professionals in health, journalism, law enforcement, the legal profession and administration.

Just in case you wondered about the course content for journalists (I did), it's here. After completing course no. SCJR 2011 for journalists, participants will be able to:
  • Understand the basic concepts of tobacco control
  • Understand different media approaches to deal with the issue of tobacco control
  • Describe the impact of globalization on the civil society intervention in the area of tobacco control
  • Examine the effectiveness of media activism in tobacco control
  • Understand specific role of Journalists in augmenting tobacco control efforts in India
Doesn't this speak volumes about the autonomy and independence journalists are meant to have these days? Isn't this just a little bit designed to prejudice one's understanding of the issues? There is a lecture on 'the role of journalists in tobacco control'. The courses are for the benefit of those 'full time working professionals who want to make a difference in the communities through tobacco control and enhance their career development'. 

If on the other hand you are based in south eastern Europe, the Smoke Free Partnership is your training provider. Your TobTaxy training takes place in Romania in September, aimed at picking teams of three people to work in each of Romania, Bulgaria, Malta, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. TobTaxy, believe it or not, means 'Making tobacco tax trendy'. This particular project is funded by the EU till 2013, and is designed to  by improve (ahem) people's understanding of tobacco and taxation issues. They expect an 'increased number of visits and interaction between the public health community and the Ministries of Finance'. That's where to go if you want an all-expenses-paid boost on the tobacco control career ladder.

It may be that many people attempting these courses, whether in India or south eastern Europe, are sincere in wishing to relieve their compatriots of their dependence on the weed. Unfortunately the entire set-up is funded with an agenda that's not about learning: at least, not as I grew up to understand learning. An outcome of TobTaxy is expected to be 'formulation of rebuttal arguments through skilled debate and strategic action'. We used to learn to write essays in order to present an argument, but modern-day learners in tobacco control learn arguments for the sake of putting the other side down.

Carl V. Phillips runs a useful discussion on Conflicts of Interest, showing that 'adamance' (an unyielding attitude) can constitute a conflict of interest, depending on one's stated claims. The stated claims of the entire public health shebang are of course public health improvement. The subtext states that the tobacco industry and its associates must not be allowed to influence health policy, according to article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Carl Phillips:  '... a good test of a position is whether its proponents can make a plausible case for it when the opponent's views are not even considered'; the plain fact is that tobacco control's strategy has relied on stamping out opposition. The whole movement's engine is a conflict of interest, because it seeks to block tobacco and associated interests from access to public policy debates (while the movement itself profits from pharmaceutical funding), all the time claiming an over-riding concern for public health.


Magnetic said...

Johns Hopkins and the Keck School of Medicine are the stomping ground of Jonathan Samet. It sounds like one of his “initiatives”. Samet has been involved in all the US Surgeon-General reports on tobacco since the mid-1980s.

Belinda said...

Yes, I see what you mean. He is everywhere: http://research.hopkinsglobalhealth.org/GlobalFacultyPage.cfm?global_faculty_id=1522

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