CECHE Hosts Workshop on Internet-Based Tobacco Control in the Czech Republic at 11th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Chicago

"Tobacco control faces a special challenge in the Czech Republic. Ironically, while the Czech Prime Minister, Vacslav Havel is a heavy smoker the spokesman of the local branch of American Tobacco is a strict non-smoker. The Czech public still remains more interested in politics than in health, possibly because they pay only for a small part of their health care from their own pocket. The daily media headlines in the Czech Republic feature bankruptcies, mafia or the rising burden of teenage drug addicts. In this environment, the Czech media face a major challenge in engaging the public in anti-tobacco action. Warnings about lung disease or cancer by smoking are not enough.”

These astute observations by Czech media expert Renate Cervenkova, set the tone for CECHE’s workshop on its Czech Internet-Based Tobacco Control Program at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Chicago, attended by over 4,500 tobacco control advocates from around the globe in August 2000. “Forming alliances between media and health professionals holds potential for drawing the attention of the public and policy makers to this number-one killer in the country and the newly initiated internet-based tobacco control program provides a fresh approach to engaging the media in this indigenous problem,” Dr. Cervenkova noted.

The workshop focused on the lessons and implications from the Czech Internet program, which CECHE and two Czech partners launched in 1999 in an attempt to counter the growth of tobacco in the Czech Republic. The program’s main tobacco control tools are training health professionals from the Czech Ministry of Health’s District Hygiene Stations and other tobacco-control professionals and NGO’s in using contemporary information technology and policy reform and forming an electronic network comprising these entities. The ultimate project goal is to establish a grass roots membership organization, with tobacco control as a central theme, to building indigenous capacity, heighten public awareness and catalyze the creation of a tobacco-free environment in the Czech Republic.

CECHE chairman Dr. Sushma Palmer opened the workshop and keynote speaker and Project director Dr. Rudolf Poledne followed with an update from a recent survey showing that One of the reasons might be an increased risk of atherosclerosis associated with atherogenic triglyceride-rich lipoproteins in smokers due to insulin resistance, as discovered recently among the leading causes of the high CVD mortality in the Czech population is the prevalence of smoking in Czech men (40%) and women (30%) as and well as the prevalence of obesity in the population country, are both highest among the 22 countries included in the WHO MONICA Project. “A combination of these two risk factors for premature atherogenesis leads to a substantial increase in serum triglyceride concentrations in smokers, which is 0.4 mmol/l higher both in men and women across the whole range of BMI and possibly to an increased risk of atherosclerosis associated with these atherogenic triglyceride-rich lipoproteins in smokers because of insulin resistance,” Poledne noted.

Ruben Israel, Head of GLOBALink’s Information and Communication Services at UICC in Geneva has been involved from the start in this project. He addressed the development of Internet-based networks for national-level tobacco control.

Since 1999, UICC’s GLOBALink has participated in catalyzing such national networks, whose aim is to foster collaboration among national as well as international tobacco control experts and organizations that offer a variety of news services and timely access to expert global talent to address critical issues such as the development or strengthening of national tobacco laws. In October 1999, at the first workshop of CECHE’s project, Israel led a training course on “Internet and Tobacco Control” for Czech Ministry of Health professionals and NGO’s in Prague. Technical “hands-on” Internet training and a guide to Internet resources on tobacco were the main foci. The seminar concluded in the launch of the Czech tobacco-control network—the main actors in tobacco control in the Czech Republic. The network is using Internet technologies and GLOBALink resources, including web page hosting and a special list-server in Czech, created for this project. The workshop evaluation showed a highly positive response from participants (workshop results charts), indicating that this approach holds substantial potential for success in other countries.

Dr. Hana Sovinova, head of the Dept. for prevention of addictions at the National Institute of Public Health in Prague, is a leading authority on tobacco control and co-project director for CECHE’s project. She demonstrated project activities and accomplishments using the Internet itself and emphasized the launching of the new website and related products.

Discussion focused on two key areas—the Internet as a tool for tobacco control and this project as a model for expansion and replication. Emphasized for the Internet in particular were the issues of access, technical skills, cost, and efficacy. As for using the project as a model for replication elsewhere, the major issues were primary agents of change—health professionals, NGO’s or others in each country, barriers to tobacco control at national level—tobacco industry, lack of awareness, government incentives (revenues), and involvement or access to other key influential groups – policy makers, media, businesses, public. The participants concluded that using the Internet as a tobacco control tool holds substantial potential for success in other countries.


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