Thank you Vinayak for taking the time to be with us today.
May I ask you to introduce yourself by giving us some background (educational, professional) information about yourself and by telling us how, when and why you got involved in tobacco control.Vinayak Prasad: : Let me thank you for giving me this opportunity to discuss the WHO project for Africa. My Background: I joined the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative in Dec 2009 to work on the Gates Africa project.
I was working with the Government of India for the past 20 years in different capacities in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health. Some of my initial years were spent in working with Indian Customs, working on trade facilitation and strengthening capacity to tackle illicit trade.
The last assignment was as Director in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India where I was handling the country's largest tertiary health-care project. This was in addition to my task as focal point for tobacco control and a few other national programmes.
My last five years with MOH have been very exciting as I have worked towards strengthening the tobacco control legislation, worked on the implementation framework for tobacco control, defended the Government's interest in courts, and looked at capacity building in the states/regions.
I have also worked closely with WHO TFI and with the Convention Secretariat (CSF) as an expert/temporary adviser for the ongoing work on the Protocol on illicit trade in tobacco products. The 4th round of negotiation will take place next month (INB4, 14-21 March)
I am a physician by training (studied medicine in Delhi) and also hold an MBA in Public Service Management from University of Birmingham UK
Q1. The presentation of the WHO's Africa programis succinct:
Purpose: to create a “hub” to prevent further increases in the prevalence of tobacco use in Sub-Saharan Africa by providing technical assistance, mobilizing resources, and building capacity to implement sustained tobacco control interventions through the “hub” which will represent a cross-sectoral partnership of governmental and non-governmental organizations across the region. Amount: $9,994,093 Term: 5 years
Can you explain to us what a "hub" would be and how you plan to associate governmental and non-governmental organizations? What type of governance structure is planned?Vinayak Prasad: The BMGF support of 10 million USD to WHO TFI aims to achieve two overarching and complementary objectives:
1. To implement a set of high-priority WHO FCTC-based tobacco control policy changes to effect demand reduction. This would be carried out in three countries, in the first three years of the project;
and 2. To increase in-country and in-region expertise and capacity to sustain implemented changes, support further in-country efforts and initiate similar tobacco control policy movement in other countries in the subregion.
The establishment of the Tobacco Control Resource center would be cross cutting, and helps us to achieve Objective 2 of the project. Essentially, it implies working towards building local/regional capacity and envisages involvement of all key stakeholders.
The Resource center would be housed in an existing academic/research/public health institution. WHO TFI would soon be issuing a Call for Interest in March 2010 to select the Resource Center
Further, to help WHO build a robust Resource center, that is sustainable and works efficiently, we are engaging a professional consulting firm. The consulting firm will be engaged shortly, as the bidding process is now under way.
Q2. The Gates Foundation also recently awarded a 5 years grant to . How do you see the division of labor and/or the cooperation between the two programs?
Vinayak Prasad: WHO Project and ACS Project would be working together in close cooperation and partnership to avoid duplication or conflict. BMGF held a Partners meeting late January in Washington DC.
We participated in the ACS Kenya meeting early this month and shared the contours of WHO project with the ACS consortia. The Principal Investigators of each Project would also be holding monthly conference calls to work towards this goal.
WHO Project mainly envisages working closely with the governments to effect policy change, whereas ACS project broadly envisages capacity for advocacy, both within and outside of governments.
Q3. awarded to promote tobacco control in Africa it appears that some countries have been totally ignored while some others seem to be better served. Can you insure all countries will be supported?
Vinayak Prasad: The WHO project envisages showing success in effecting policy change for tobacco control. There would initially be three target countries, followed by two more countries when the Center is fully functional. The project does not envisage supporting all countries.
It is critical to demonstrate that the high-burden countries that have the political will are able to achieve policy change rather than to make an equitable distribution of the limited resources and not achieve the desired outcomes. WHO sees this as a catalytic investment for further funding support once the project shows positive outcomes.
Q4. The language used for this interview is English but in Sub-sahara Africa speak and 17 million speak . How is the program going to talk to/with them?
Vinayak Prasad: It would be our endeavor that all the products and services in the WHO Tobacco Control Resource Center are available in the three languages.
Q5. With the size increase of the grants, concerns about , , evaluation, control of the administrative costs, control of travel and hospitality expanses are also growing. How Is the program going to address them? Do you plan to use the internet based web2.0 tools, like blogs, podcasts?
Vinayak Prasad: There is a well-defined work plan and agreed budget/timelines. WHO has a robust procedure and good accounting system for purchase of goods and services. In addition, the consulting firm will help WHO evaluate the performance of the Resource Center and also hold two workshops (in the initial two years) to take corrective action. As and when the Resource center is functional, the tools etc would be appropriately e linked
6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Vinayak Prasad: The tobacco control work in Africa would require much greater sensitization of the Governments. More so of the community, as they are the most affected. The media could play an important role in building the level of awareness and sensitization among the people of Africa, about the harm due to tobacco (both in terms of their health and economically), as also of the tobacco industry tactics.
WHO would make all efforts to build capacity of the national governments to tackle the tobacco epidemic in Africa and looks forward to support and cooperation from all stakeholders.
Thank you Vinayak for having taken the time to rendez-vous with us.