Advocacy is vital for advancing tobacco control. However little research has been done into the work of advocates and the challenges they face.
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
The importance of tobacco control advocacy is enshrined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global public health treaty. Its guiding principles state that ‘the participation of civil society is essential in achieving the objective of the Convention and its protocols’. In line with this, major public health organisations, including intergovernmental agencies, non-governmental organisations and funding agencies have been supporting tobacco control advocates worldwide.
The work of advocates in countering tobacco industry interference
The adoption and implementation of the FCTC has tended to be slower and weaker in LMICs than in high-income countries, so finding ways to address industry interference effectively could have positive effects on the public health of these countries. This research carried out by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath explored the experiences of advocates from eight LMICs.
The research found a remarkable consistency of experience across the advocate groups involved, both in the activities they are involved in, and the challenges they face. Based on the findings, researchers have identified some core needs which, if met, would help advocates to carry out their work more effectively.
What do advocates need?
Support is needed across core areas of advocates' work, which include generating and compiling data and evidence; accessing policymakers and restricting industry access; working with media; and engaging in partnerships and coalitions. But the research also pointed to two overarching needs which must be addressed to facilitate advocates' work - a move from short-term to longer-term funding to allow sustainable capacity-building; and more opportunity to share knowledge and learn from each other’s experiences.
It is hoped that by clearly identifying these needs for skills-training, capacity-building and longer-term investment, donors should find it easier to direct their funding to ensure the sustainability of advocates’ work on tobacco control.