We propose to study the political economy of tobacco in low- and middle-income countries in Southeast Asia. Through a regional research and capacity building program, we seek to enable those in the region to respond more effectively to the challenge of tobacco use for the long term and on their own terms. By political economy, we refer to the interrelationships between political processes and economic variables that influence the course of tobacco control policy. From taxes to trade of tobacco, these issues are inherently challenging-transdisciplinary in nature, often regional in scope and implications, and not bounded by only health concerns in the larger context of development. This program represents a unique partnership that builds upon the legacy of the Rockefeller Foundation's Trading Tobacco for Health initiative, leverages the policy reach of the Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) regional network, and builds synergy with the American Cancer Society's Tobacco Control Surveillance Program. By Southeast Asia, we will refer primarily here to seven countries in that region: Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The specific aims of this project are to: 1. Conduct research that examines the political economy of tobacco control and its impact on health in Southeast Asia. Through regional meetings, targeted research grants, and subsequent smaller workshops, we would cultivate, train and resource a group of country-level researchers. Selected projects will receive expert technical assistance as well as support for editing, policy translation and dissemination. 2. Support studies that situate the impact of tobacco into the larger context of sustainable development. Reframing tobacco as more than a public health concern may yield greater policy change. 3. Build capacity and networking of researchers in Southeast Asia to enable a strong, local evidence base for tobacco control and to encourage effective translation of research into policy. These country researchers would participate in regional and in-country meetings, periodic conference calls, and an on-line collaborative workspace. For there to be a community of researchers sharing interest in tobacco control, few countries in Southeast Asia have sufficient critical mass to mount a network of their own. Scaling this up to a regional network affords multiple advantages: the opportunity for cross-country comparison and cross-border learning, the potential for building up research centers of excellence that could serve a region, and most importantly, a community of colleagues to provide evidence for tobacco control policy in Southeast Asia.
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