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Asia Pacific Mayors Summit calls for integrated health responses

Published : 08 Dec 2021 07:54 PM | Updated : 09 Dec 2021 02:27 PM

The 6thAsia Pacific Summit of Mayors (6th APCAT Summit) has ended with adoption of a declaration which commits subnational leaders for stronger action in advancing tobacco control and preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The declaration also called for leveraging synergies between Covid-19 response and other health and development responses, and firewalling health and development policies and programmes from industry interferences.

The 6th APCAT Summit was held on December 7 with the theme, “Together we bring health solutions”. The summit brought together over 800 delegates from 130 cities in 19 countries, including Mayors, Governors, public health experts, media, and youth.

The Summit, however, highlights the needs of sustaining routine vaccination programmes, TB control and preventing mother to child transmission of viral hepatitis during pandemic to prevent secondary health crisis.

The 6th APCAT Summit was jointly organised by Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT), Ministry of Health of Indonesia; National Centre for Health Promotion, Ministry of Health of Cambodia; Bogor City of Indonesia; Balanga City of Philippines; Bharatpur Metropolitan of Nepal; Indonesia Mayor and Regent Alliance; Association of All Health Offices Indonesia (ADINKES), APCAT Parliamentarians, APCAT Media, Partnership for Healthy Cities and The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).

Dr. Tara Singh Bam, Asia Pacific Director of The Union, Dr Svetlana Akselrod, Director of Global NCD Platform of World Health Organization, Syed Mahbubul Alam, Technical Advisor of The Union, and Shagufta Sultana, Project Director of AID Foundation, took part in the discussion, among others.

Meanwhile, some mayors who were elected from several municipalities in Bangladesh also spoke on the occasion. Among them, Haji Md Abdul Gani, Mayor of Savar Municipality of Dhaka, Md Golam Kabir, Mayor of Dhamrai Municipality in Dhaka, Rafika Akhtar Jahan Baby, Mayor of Saidpur Municipality in Nilphamari, Ramzan Ali, Mayor of Manikganaj Municipality, and Abu Nayem Md Bashar, Mayor of Singair Municipality.

In Bangladesh, consequences of tobacco use is becoming a huge burden. From WHO Bangladesh Factsheet 2018, heart disease and stroke are the commonest ways by which tobacco kills people. In another study report, it was stated that tobacco use caused nearly 126,000 deaths accounting for 13.5% of deaths from any cause in Bangladesh in 2018.

Approximately 1.5 million adults were suffering from diseases attributable to tobacco use and nearly 61,000 children were suffering from diseases due to exposure to second-hand smoke. The estimate of the direct healthcare costs attributable to tobacco use amounted to BDT 83.9 billion annually, 76% of which was paid by tobacco users’ households and 24% was financed through the public health sector budget, representing nearly 9% of total government health expenditure in the fiscal year 2018-19.

In her speech in the 6th APCAT Summit, Rafika Akhtar Jahan Baby said that tobacco industries always try to violate tobacco control laws, especially through tobacco advertisement and promotion. They also conduct CSR activities to build relationships with municipalities. In Bangladesh, tobacco industries are the main creator of huge health burden through selling their deadly products, he added.

Md Golam Kabir said, “Tobacco use is the main cause of non-communicable diseases in Bangladesh. We have plan to prevent non-communicable disease by reducing tobacco use in this municipality.”

In his speech, Ramzan Ali said, “If we do not make our country tobacco-free by this period nor stop tobacco consumption, it will remain as a black spot to a developed country like Bangladesh. Different measures has been taken to ensure that, at least no one sells cigarettes nor smokes in the premises of health centers, educational institutions and municipality office. According to the experts, those who smokes and those who sits next to them are being affected similarly. If the tobacco control movement is carried out jointly with our local government and local people's representatives, this movement will bring many benefits.”

Abu Nayem Md Bashar said, “For the past two years, we have been fighting with the COVID-19 pandemic. Tobacco use creates non-communicable diseases and it is really dangerous. We need to take action immediately. I want everyone to be aware of food habits, exercise and try to walk regularly.”

Haji Md Abdul Gani said, “‘I think smoking is the first step of using addictive drugs. Those who are addicted to smoking have higher potential to start using drugs. We want our new generation and youths to restrain from smoking. We have already done many public awareness programs to educate them. Very soon, necessary steps will be taken to introduce Tobacco Vendor Licensing system to stop the sale of tobacco products everywhere.”

“Health is a political choice that should ensure leadership, accountability and sustainability for the effective implementation of public health policies and programs and prevent current and future pandemics”, said Dr. Tara Singh Bam, adding that APCAT is a forum of Mayors where local innovations and solutions are shared to improve tobacco control, NCDs and lung health.

Dr Svetlana Akselrod said, “The double pandemic of the COVID-19 and noncommunicable diseases places us in an unprecedented crisis that cannot be solved by a single country or stakeholder. Only by scaling up global cooperation to bring together governments, WHO and other UN agencies, civil society, academia, and the private sector can we make progress towards a successful recovery and achieve SDG target 3.4, and universal health coverage.”

In his discussion, Syed Mahbubul Alam said, “Healthy Diets, Physical Activity, and Tobacco Control have a significant role in reducing the Non-communicable Disease (NCDs) burden. Local government leaders can contribute to NCDs control by ensuring urban agriculture for fresh food, playground for physical activity, and implementation of Tobacco Control Law to reduce tobacco use.”

In her speech, Shagufta Sultana said, “Due to tobacco use non-communicable disease burden is getting higher in Bangladesh. Besides the NCDs, some communicable diseases like; TB, COVID are also spreading extensively. Disease burden is always a threat to the economy. So, control tobacco use, and practice healthy life-style is helpful for a healthy nation. Proper implementation of Tobacco Control Laws can play a significant role.”

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