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Thursday, October 6, 2011

  • Biggest health grant comes to tobacco project
  • United Way gifts a form of 'leadership'
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Fong]Biggest health grant comes to tobacco project

from a news release issued by the media relations office

A Waterloo professor, Geoffrey Fong, has received the largest operating grant ever awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for his team's groundbreaking work on tobacco smoking control policies around the world.

Fong (right), a professor of psychology and health studies, is receiving $7.4 million over five years (2011-2016) to support the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. The ITC Project was created by Fong and his colleagues in 2002 and now is measuring the effect of tobacco control policies in 20 countries in order to provide policy-makers with evidence to adopt stronger tobacco control policies. The new CIHR grant exceeds the previous five-year grant of $3.88 million awarded for the ITC Project in 2005.

"Tobacco-related illness is a largely preventable global public health challenge and research is an essential component of effective tobacco reduction strategies," says Nancy Edwards, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health. "The ITC Project illustrates how critically important the links are between research, evidence and policy making."

The World Health Organization has identified tobacco use as the world's leading preventable cause of death. In this century, it is projected that one billion people may die of tobacco use. As well, tobacco use is the single most important cause of non-communicable diseases, accounting for close to one-third of all such diseases throughout the world.

The ITC Project is the only international research effort that focuses on evaluating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first health treaty, which was adopted in 2003 by all 192 countries of the WHO. The treaty lists a wide range of tobacco control policies, including enhanced warning labels, bans and restrictions on advertising and promotion, increased taxation and smoke-free laws.

"Over the years, professor Fong and the ITC Project teams throughout the world have demonstrated the power of scientific research to advance the cause of evidence-based policies in fighting the global tobacco epidemic," said Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s Tobacco-Free Initiative. "We applaud the Canadian government through CIHR for its continued support of this groundbreaking research endeavour."

The new CIHR grant expands the ITC Project, which involves more than 100 tobacco control experts and researchers and a thousand support staff across the 23 ITC countries.

The project uses rigorous survey methods to answer key questions: Do graphic warnings lead to increased motivation to quit? Are smoke-free laws effective in reducing smoking in public places? Do higher taxes on cigarettes lead to shifts to other forms of tobacco rather than to quitting?

"Our findings have been used throughout the world to promote strong evidence-based tobacco control policies," said Fong. "ITC research findings have been particularly useful in low- and middle-income countries, where the tobacco industry is aggressively moving to expand its activity, as smoking in Canada and other high-income countries has been decreasing. The ITC Project has been instrumental in showing that arguments against comprehensive tobacco control laws that often inhibit governments from taking action are invalid."

Specifically, the new funding supports the ongoing ITC Project in Canada and the United States, as well as in India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Mauritius, Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico. The money will also support new ITC projects in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.

Over the last decade, findings from the ITC Project have made significant contributions to advance effective tobacco control policies in Canada and throughout the world. For example, ITC findings in Bangladesh showed that very low taxes and prices are, as in most countries, a primary cause of the increasing rates of tobacco use in that country. The ITC Project team in Bangladesh is working with the National Board of Revenue, in collaboration with WHO, to raise taxes on tobacco products.

ITC evaluations of smoke-free laws in Europe — contrasting successes in Ireland, France, United Kingdom with poorer outcomes in Germany and the Netherlands — resulted in strong evidence-based findings for countries on how to enact strong and effective smoke-free laws.

In his testimony before the Health Standing Committee of Canada's House of Commons last December, Fong presented ITC data from Canada showing that all indicators of label effectiveness had declined over the previous seven years. His evidence was considered highly influential in the government's decision to introduce regulations for new and larger graphic warnings on tobacco products.

"The knowledge created by Dr. Fong and the ITC Project have contributed significantly to tobacco control worldwide," said George Dixon, Waterloo’s vice-president (university research). "This project is having an immense impact on the health of lives of millions of people around the globe and we appreciate the support demonstrated by CIHR through this funding."

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United Way gifts a form of 'leadership'

As cheques and pledges start to come in for the United Way campaign, the president of the university has suggested that contributing to the community fund is another way of showing “leadership” for Waterloo.

“Our university is seen as a leader,” he told some 75 United Way volunteers at a lunchtime briefing, “and while this is not a competition, I believe that we can take a leadership role in this campaign and show the community how much we care.”

The campaign is seeking to raise $210,000 this year, mostly from staff and faculty members. The money goes toward the three-year goal of $21 million for the United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area, which supports dozens of programs from agencies as diverse as counselling services, injury prevention and shelters.

Most people on campus got their pledge forms on Monday. By Wednesday morning the United Way office was reporting that 228 donors had been heard from and the month-long campaign was 37 per cent of the way to its goal, with $78,574 raised.

“The University of Waterloo plays a multi-faceted role in the Kitchener Waterloo community, and a critical part of that is helping to shape the future,” president Feridun Hamdullahpur told the volunteers at their annual luncheon.

“The University of Waterloo feels a strong connection to Kitchener-Waterloo. It was this community that shaped the university and we will always remember that. Giving to the United Way campaign is just one way we can help to give something back,” he noted.

“Many of us think about giving but then get caught up with other things and think that someone else will donate. I urge you to take the time to donate now. Whether it’s your first or tenth donation, whether it’s big or small, every bit helps,” he said.

Hamdullahpur expressed his gratitude to the many volunteers who help make the United Way campaign a success. “I’m very proud of our team of volunteers and I can’t begin to thank them enough for their time. It’s a very important cause and we’re lucky to have the volunteers who help make it happen. When it comes down to it, there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone,” he said.

“The United Way campaign is an opportunity to help our colleagues, our friends and our community members who are in need.”

There’s a bit of fun in the campaign as well, including some of the special events that departments traditionally organize during October. Plant operations is holding a lunchtime barbecue in front of the General Services Complex today, for instance, with half the revenue going to the United Way. A bake sale in the Mackenzie King Village multipurpose room this morning, organized by housing staff, was for the same cause. In addition there are the campus-wide "dress down" days, every Friday in October, starting tomorrow.

There are a number of “incentive prizes” for donors, including an early bird draw for those who make a donation this week: five draw winners will win lunch with Hamdullahpur at the University Club.

“We have so many people who contribute to this campaign,” the president says. “This lunch is just one way for me to thank our Waterloo community. It’s a very exciting opportunity for me.”


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Election day

Polls will be open from 9 to 9 today in the Ontario general election. The Federation of Students is running shuttles from the Student Life Centre for students who need help getting to the polls. Employees are entitled by law to three clear hours before or after work to cast their votes.

Rankings out today

The third major set of international rankings of universities is expected out today from Britain's Times Higher Education. The "Shanghai" and "QS" rankings were published earlier in the fall.

Link of the day


When and where

Career workshops today: "Career Exploration and Decision-Making" 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1112; "Writing CVs and Cover Letters" 12:00, Tatham 2218; "Interview Skills, Selling Your Skills" 3:30, 2218; "Thinking About Med School?" 6:00, Hagey Hall room 138. Details.

Thanksgiving lunch 11:00 to 1:45, Festival Fare, South Campus Hall.

Water Institute seminar: Lewis Jonker, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, “Thinking Differently About Water: Implications for Capacity Building Programs” 11:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Thanksgiving luncheon buffet at the University Club, today and Friday 11:30 to 2:00, $21.50, reservations ext. 33801.

Getting Started in Desire2Learn workshop for instructors, organized by Centre for Teaching Excellence, 11:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Library workshop: “Patent Searching” 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Building and properties committee 3 p.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Arts faculty council 3:30, Hagey Hall room 334.

Chemical engineering seminar: Keryn Lian, University of Toronto, “Proton Conducting Polymer Electrolytes” 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Storyteller Adwoa Badoe reads at St. Jerome’s University, 4:30, StJ room 3014.

Warrior sports: Football vs. Laurier, 7 p.m., Warrior Field; women's volleyball at McMaster tournament, Thursday-Saturday.

Guelph-Waterloo Physics Institute distinguished lecture: Art McDonald, Queen’s University, “Exploring the Universe from 2 km Underground” 7 p.m., Optometry room 1129.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: “Introduction to the Student Success Office” Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

International spouses group walking tour of Waterloo Park, Friday 1 p.m., meet at Clay and Glass Gallery.

‘Direct action training’ organized by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group , Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Thanksgiving Day Monday, October 10, no classes held, university closed.

Class enrolment appointments for winter term courses October 10-15; open class enrolment begins October 17.

Retirees Association fall luncheon Tuesday 11:30 a.m. (cash bar), 12:00 (lunch), tickets $25, presentation by retired fine arts professor Ann Roberts. Information 519-888-0334.

Ontario Universities Fair October 14-16, Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Details.

Cold Hard Truth, entrepreneurship book by Waterloo graduate Kevin O’Leary, author appearance October 14, 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets $15 (students $10) at Humanities box office, sponsored by bookstore.

Conrad Grebel University College installation of new president, Susan Schultz Huxman, October 16, 3:00, Floradale Mennonite Church.

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