Rendez vous 171 - August 20, 2007
Catherine Jo: My name is Catherine Jo. I joined the American Cancer Society in 2005. Initially, I worked on both national and international tobacco control issues, but I now work 100% on international tobacco control as Manager of International Tobacco Control.
In this capacity, I oversee the Society’s international tobacco control grant program, provide technical assistance to tobacco control advocates internationally, and monitor tobacco control activity and lead projects of the International Tobacco Control Program in various countries, primarily in Latin America.
Prior to joining the Society, I worked at BearingPoint, a management consulting company, developing marketing materials and conducting qualitative research on a variety of public policy issues, including the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit and the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
While I enjoyed the job, learned a great deal, and worked with many wonderful colleagues with whom I still keep in touch, I wanted to explore other areas in public health, particularly in the international arena and at the policy level.
My position at the American Cancer Society has afforded me the opportunity to do this. I truly love my job.
It sounds cliché, but I feel fortunate to work with such bright and amazing people both at the American Cancer Society and in the international tobacco control community.
They are passionate for what they do and that makes coming to work each day inspiring. Tobacco control is also an exciting field. There are new developments in research, policy, and advocacy everyday – it is challenging just to keep track of all that is going on!
Q1. Having a look at the ACS International Affairs Blogs I found a few tobacco control news items I wish you could explain a little more for us. The first one is about a week long international workshop sponsored in May by several regional divisions. Can you tell us how this type of workshop is organized?
Catherine Jo: The workshop to which I think you are referring is the American Cancer Society University (ACSU) which is a week-long training program for international cancer control leaders. ACSU scholars are trained in key elements of community-based cancer control such as governance, fundraising, media relations, and advocacy.
We have several staff in our International Affairs department who are dedicated to planning and implementing ACSUs all around the world. They work with American Cancer Society volunteers, board members, ACSU alumni, and other International Affairs staff to develop and present the program content.
We are beginning to launch a similar program for tobacco control called the Tobacco Control Leadership Academy (TCLA). Among other topics, it will include modules on coalition management, media training, grassroots/campaign outreach, campaign development, and project management.
Q2. In March the Society co-organized a cessation workshop in China. Can you tell us how the cooperation with China works? Who are your local partners? What about the Bloomberg Initiative?
Catherine Jo: We have one staff person in our International Affairs department and two in-country consultants who lead ACS initiatives in China.
Among other projects, these personnel have partnered with the China Ministry of Health, China Center for Disease Control’s (China CDC) Tobacco Control Office, Hong Kong University, the Chinese Anti-Cancer Association (CACA), and others involved in tobacco control to support cessation activities.
These activities include conducting train-the-trainer workshops for cessation counselors, developing and sustaining cessation clinics, and leading trainings on cessation guidelines and services.
This October the Society will sponsor the First Cross Strait Tobacco Control Conference in Taipei and will host a pre- and post-conference training for selected scholars from China.
We look forward to working with the Bloomberg Global Initiative to see how we can create synergy and make our activities complementary.
Q3. ACS was a co-sponsor of the first African conference on Tobacco or Health that took place in Morocco in december 2006. The post mentions tobacco control grantees. Can you tells us about them?
Catherine Jo: The American Cancer Society has four major international tobacco control grant programs: Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Advocacy Grants, FCTC Research Grants, World Conference on Tobacco OR Health Seed Grants, and Tobacco Control Technology Grants.
The majority of these grant programs are administered in partnership with other organizations such as Cancer Research UK, the Framework Convention Alliance, and Research for International Tobacco Control (International Development Research Centre).
These programs are intended to help promote the collection and dissemination of evidence based tobacco control research, facilitate advocacy for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and improve access to technology for tobacco control advocates.
We have a network of over 200 grantees from over 70 countries, and they are truly doing incredible work in tobacco control.
Our grantees have successfully led campaigns to urge their governments to sign and ratify the FCTC. A vast majority of the countries targeted by our grantees have signed the convention.
We have grantees in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Vietnam who have trained journalists on tobacco control issues. We have grantees in India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries who have used their research findings to provide advice and feedback to their governments.
It is really inspiring to read and hear about their projects and challenges and successes. They’re an illustrious group!
Catherine Jo: The journalist boot camp was the first of its kind to combine a network of leading NGO leaders with 20 journalists to educate them on the tobacco and cancer burdens.
This boot camp was very successful and included a press conference with the Indian Minister of Health.
More than 50 print and broadcast stories resulted from this effort, and journalists made critical contacts with tobacco and cancer control leaders in India.
Q5. In April, ACS representatives met in India to share their experience with the Indian advocates preparing the next world conference that will take place in Mumbai. You were also (of course) present at the COP2 conference in Bangkok.
While conferences are useful, the internet now allows for very efficient and cheap international communication: that is the premise Globalink was built upon :)
Do you see new opportunities to use the internet in your work? What about a blog especially dedicated to your tobacco control projects :)
Catherine Jo: It seems there are always new opportunities to use the internet more efficiently in our work.
We are experimenting with a few project management websites to streamline our grants tracking process and collaborate with other partners.
Given the rising popularity of social networking sites, we have also begun thinking about whether a myspace or facebook type of platform might be useful in our work, perhaps to stay in touch with grantees or organize regional initiatives.
Listservs seem to be the most commonly used networking tool, but given all the technology that exists, it is certainly worth investigating other tools that might be more efficient.
Skype is tool that we often use to save on international calling costs. The chat feature on Skype has been convenient and useful internally as well. As for a blog, cancerblog is the blog for the American Cancer Society’s International Affairs Department.
Reports on our tobacco control activities are posted there on a regular basis. So far there are no plans for a blog solely dedicated to tobacco control, but who knows? Maybe it will happen some day!
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Catherine Jo: ACS is involved in two exciting tobacco control initiatives: the Global Smokefree Partnership and the Africa Tobacco Control Resource Centre.
ACS, along with the Framework Convention Alliance, co-hosts the Global Smokefree Partnership (GSP).
GSP is a multi-partner initiative formed to promote effective smokefree air policies worldwide.
ACS and Cancer Research UK, in collaboration with African experts, plans to establish an Africa Tobacco Control Regional Centre (ATCRC), which will address research, advocacy, epidemiologic/surveillance, and policy needs which will directly aid in preventing the spread of tobacco use in Africa.
The first phase of the project was a needs assessment, which was conducted at the 2nd Conference of the Parties.
We hired researchers to conduct 21 in-depth interviews with Africans working on tobacco control domestically and regionally.
The majority of individuals interviewed were affiliated with local or national civil society organizations that devote at least a portion of their resources and focus on tobacco control.
Interviewees came from the following countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The purpose of the needs assessment is two fold: (1) identify local and regional advocates' perspectives as to the source, type, scope, and priorities of support that would be most useful to them
(2) examine the feasibility of and local interest in establishing an ATCRC.
A draft report containing the findings of the needs assessment has just been completed. Once it is in a more final state, it will be distributed more broadly and further consultations with regard to the next steps will begin.
The ATCRC will be officially launched in 2008.
An essential element of our work is collaborating with our public health partners in the public, private, and NGO sectors.
This enables us to leverage our limited funds and participate as lead or partner in a wide range of international tobacco control activities such the Global Tobacco Treatment Partnership, the triennial Luther Terry Awards (of which Globalink is a former awardee!), sponsorship of a lecture series on global tobacco issues at Stanford University, development of a primer on the economics of tobacco in Mexico, contributions to the development of position papers for the Framework Convention Alliance, production of The Tobacco Atlas, and many others.
Thank you Catherine for having taken the time to be with us.