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Hands-on Workshops Aim to Strengthen Tobacco Control Efforts in Indonesia

, by Kalina Duncan

Participants of the 2nd Indonesian Tobacco Control Research Dissemination Conference and Capacity Building Program gather following the successful workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Indonesia boasts some of the highest smoking rates in the world. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), conducted in 2011 by the Indonesian National Institute of Health Research and Development and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that more than 67% of men and almost 40% of boys aged 13-15 use tobacco.

The numbers are staggering. If left unchecked, tobacco-related illness will wreak havoc on Indonesia's health system. In 2014, the Government of Indonesia implemented universal health care that will provide unprecedented levels of health coverage to the Indonesian population.. If tobacco use rates continue at current levels, chronic diseases such as cancer will economically burden this system in yet untold ways.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend 4 months working with the Ministry of Health on the behalf of NCI. One of my main areas of focus was in building partnerships and research capacity in the critical field of tobacco control. Indonesia lacks much of the evidence required to effectively work with policy and program makers to initiate and implement policies that will curb national smoking rates. As a non-signer/non-ratifier of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, locally-relevant data is even more critical.

As part of NCI's investment in building tobacco control research capacity in Indonesia, I am here along with NCI's international tobacco control expert and epidemiologist, Dr. Mark Parascandola, to serve as faculty on two important tobacco control research capacity building efforts.

On April 19-24, NCI partnered with the Muhammadiyah University Tobacco Control Center and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health International Tobacco Control Center to host the 2nd Indonesian Tobacco Control Research Dissemination Conference and Capacity Building Program. The conference attracted over 125 researchers from Indonesia and focused on  the presentation of 10 research studies from early-career researchers.  Additionally, the workshop/conference aimed to teach research capacity building skills in areas like crafting research questions, using data to inform and evaluate tobacco control measures, and writing for scientific literature.

On April 28-30, Mark and I will join the Universitas Gadjah Mada for a hands-on workshop to integrate tobacco control epidemiology into their Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), a master’s degree program that works in coordination with the US CDC to both provide didactic training and field work opportunities for graduate epidemiology students. This training will reach more than 40 University students and feature some of Indonesia's most prominent researchers from the Ministry of Health and academia.

During a visit to Indonesia in 2012 by the former NCI Director, Dr. Harold Varmus, he was quoted in the Jakarta Globe as saying "the handling of cancer in Indonesia should focus on the battle against nicotine addiction." At the NCI, Center for Global Health, we could not agree more.

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