The University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) has been recognised for its efforts in enhancing public health by Europe’s leading health policy institution.

The European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) awarded the Group its inaugural European Health Leadership Award (EHLA) at a ceremony held in Bad Hofgastein in Austria last week.

The award, sponsored by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection, was launched to shine the spotlight on ‘disruptive thinkers’ and ‘pioneering change makers’ who have shown ‘transformative innovation and leadership in safeguarding or improving the health of people in Europe’. 2019 marks the first year the EHFG has awarded the prize.

Nominated by the Smoke Free Partnership for the impact their research has had on tobacco control policies in the UK, Europe and globally, the TCRG was chosen from 36 nominated and six shortlisted candidates who each demonstrated unique and innovative ideas to challenge the status-quo of health in Europe.

Over the past decade, under the direction of Professor Anna Gilmore, the Group has established itself as a centre of excellence for research on tobacco control and the commercial determinants of health. Its innovative website TobaccoTactics has become the go-to place for up-to-date information on the tobacco industry and its efforts to shape and influence public health.

Last year, the Group was announced as one of the partners in STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products), a global tobacco industry watchdog, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, whose mission is to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health.

Receiving the award in Austria, Professor Anna Gilmore said: “It is an enormous honour to receive this award from the prestigious European Health Forum Gastein and to have been nominated alongside such worthy European counterparts.

“I cannot flag strongly enough that this award recognises the efforts of the whole Group for what is truly an amazing team effort. Nothing in the policy space is achieved in isolation and we also want to thank the many NGOs, civil servants, politicians, inter-governmental organisations and others for using our work to achieve policy change.

“We also want to thank those who have funded us, particularly Cancer Research UK for sharing the early vision of what could be achieved and being brave enough to fund us when such work was far from mainstream, and Bloomberg Philanthropies for helping globalise this work via STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products), a new global industry watchdog in which we are a partner.

“I hope this award signals a growing recognition of the important role research on the commercial determinants of health can play in improving population health.”

The Group will use the prize money to build capacity within the ‘next generation of disruptors’, in line with the prize’s theme of ‘A Healthy Dose of Disruption', by supporting PhD students in the team to attend international conferences and by offering bursaries to colleagues in low- and middle-income countries to attend its annual Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Research course.

Professor David Galbreath, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, said: “This award is testament to the fantastic work carried out by the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group and an endorsement of the important impacts their work is having. Through all their activities and outreach, TCRG demonstrate how research can be applied to expose major challenges facing public health across the world in relation to tobacco. My congratulations to the whole team for the work they do.”

Read more about the work of the TCRG via this recent Times Higher Education feature