Health promotion project: Tobacco Prevention

In collaboration with Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, MHI has been undertaking a health promotion project in Timor-Leste since 2014, focussing primarily on tobacco prevention.  Tobacco use is a significant and preventable cause of health problems in Timor which has the world’s highest rates of male smoking.  As yet there have been few efforts to curtail smoking in Timor-Leste.  MHI is aware that cultural programs can contribute to efforts to prevent health-compromising behaviours such as tobacco use.  

For these reasons, in 2015 MHI and Deakin University Australia worked together with local partners to establish the National Alliance for Tobacco Control Timor Leste.. This group now has 14 civil society member organisations from across Timor-Leste. The work of the Alliance in advocating for tobacco control has progressed well, with its lobbying efforts resulting in the Government passing long-stalled laws about comprehensive tobacco control in 2015. 

In 2017-2018 the National Alliance for Tobacco Prevention has continued to work with local organisations across Timor-Leste in promoting an anti-smoking message. The Alliance includes three Timorese staff and New Zealand volunteer, through the VSA program. A marvellous support for the Alliance’s work came to MHI in November 2017 in the form of volunteer, Ms. Marion Smith, through New Zealand Government’s VSA program. Marion brings a huge range of experience in governance and management in very diverse communities across Australia and New Zealand. Marion’s support made a significant difference to the Alliance this year with the achievement of registration with the Ministry of Justice in the days before the end of 2017.

In 2018 the team delivered a range of advocacy and health promotion activities including celebrating World No Tobacco Day which with the cooperation of the Ministry of Health, WHO and Timor-Leste Mission, which was held over a period of six days. A message was sent to 4000 smartphone users every day with a different health message on each of the days culminating with quit smoking on World No Tobacco Day.  During the week ANCT the Alliance visited Atauro Island to hold a seminar on the impact of smoking, especially on the heart to keep with the World No Tobacco Day theme for the year. Two schools, one vocational centre, two universities all had workshops and panel discussions on smoking for youth.  Their efforts resulted in three media coverages - two magazines and one radio during this period focusing on smoking issues in Timor-Leste. 

The Alliance was also successful in receiving technical support from the Bloomberg Foundation. Despite not being successful for their bid for funding, their application was the first from Timor-Leste to ever get through the first phase of the grant application, making it through to the third phase only to be passed by because of resource shortage and priority changes. The team were heartened to get that far and next year's application is ready to be developed from this learning.

Past events organised by the Alliance and partners have included:

  • August 2017: 3 day quit smoking program delivered in partnership with Deakin University, Dili, August 2017
  • June 2017: Presentation Timor Leste Association Conference: by MHI staff member Thomas Lopes 
  • May 2017: Health EXPO to prevent non-communicable disease in Timor Plaza, Dili-Timor Leste. Hosted by Adventist Health in Collaboration with Many Hands International-National Alliance Tobacco Control and ADRA NGO and Red Cross Timor Leste
  • October 2016: Anti-tobacco workshop funded by Many Hands International and Deakin University. Hosted by the National Alliance Organisation with members of the Rural Youth Action NGO in Aileu District, October 2016 
  • Anti-tobacco workshop funded by Many Hands International and Deakin University. Hosted by the National Alliance Organisation with members of the Sub-Commission for Justice and Peace, Fuiloro Agriculture Technical High School
  • July 2016: World No Tobacco Day, National Alliance Tobacco Control in Timor Leste March, July 2016
  • May 2016: Many Hands International with the National Alliance Tabacco Control,  the World Health Organisation and the Timor Leste Ministry of Health held a national orientation workshop on tobacco control strategy and tuberculosis, Dili.
  • July 2015:  Presentation Timor Leste Studies Association Conference: Atitude Uja Tabaku Estratejia Prevensaun iha Timor Leste. MHI staff member Nelinha Periera made this presentation to the TLSA Conference in Dili in July on behalf of Thomas who was in India at a WHO meeting.
  • July 2015: WHO SEARO meeting, Delhi: MHI staff member Thomas Lopes represents Timor-Leste at this meeting on strengthening Non-Communicable Disease Prevention by Civil Society Organisations, WHO South-East Asia,  New Delhi, 9-10 July 2015. Report here 
  • March 2015: Many Hands International and the Lautem Ministry of Health No Smoking Health Message presentation at Public Elementary School No 1,  Lospalos
  • November 2014 Public Forum: A major activity was a public forum held in November 2014, that involved representatives from Many Hands, Deakin University, WHO, the Health Department and many participants from various civil society organisations in Timor.  Participants discussed strategies to promote tobacco prevention and enthusiastically agreed to establish a National Alliance for Tobacco Prevention. Read the report of the event and presentations: Supporting efforts to prevent tobacco use in Timor-Leste,  Professor John Toumbourou, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia and Strategy Plan for Tobacco Control, Dr. Herculano Seixas dos Santos, Chefe Departemento de Controlo de Doencas Nao Contagiosas e Mentais, Timor-Leste. 
  • November 2014: Seminar: Supporting efforts to reduce tobacco use in Timor Leste, presented by Deakin University and Many Hands International, Lospalos, November 2014


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