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  JANUARY 30, 2009
­Loma Linda SPH Trains Tobacco Control Leaders in Southeast Asia

LLU grads and facultyLoma Linda University School of Public Health (SPH) has trained 14 students in Laos and Cambodia to be leaders in their nations in the fight against tobacco. The students each received a certificate in tobacco control and leadership last month during a ceremony in Phnom Penh. The certificate course was made possible by a grant from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center.

The course was a joint effort between Loma Linda University, the nongovernment organization Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the ministries of health in Cambodia and Laos.

The 14 trainees are now competent in skills such as conducting surveys, analyzing data, and implementing tobacco control measures. These are needed proficiencies in the two countries, said Dr. Synnove Knutsen, project manager on the grant.

"We have educated some of the leaders in the Ministry of Health in both countries, so we hope that their knowledge can trickle down to others," said Dr. Knutsen. "These are people who sit in important positions that can make policy changes."

During their training, the students were able to accomplish some big steps toward reducing tobacco use. Students from both countries were instrumental in convincing the governments of Laos and Cambodia to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a measure designed to reduce the global tobacco epidemic.

Furthermore, new tobacco legislation is awaiting approval in Laos and Cambodia. Students who also work for the Ministry of Health in their respective countries were part of the teams that developed and wrote the new laws.

In Cambodia, the students helped create and organize a national prevalence study of tobacco use, which was the first to include all of the nation’s 22 provinces. Loma Linda University SPH has a second Fogarty grant to develop a survey instrument for a prevalence study in Laos, as well. Working with the trainees and other partners, the university expects to survey about 6,000 people by sometime in spring 2010.

One of the trainees, Ms. Chhordaphea Chhea of Cambodia, stated the certificate program has given her knowledge on research, policy and strategies, and advocacy.

"In addition," she said, "the training has built a network among tobacco fighters nationally and internationally, which I believe to be efficient in the short and long run for information sharing and supporting each other."

Dr. Knutsen agreed. "We feel that the partnership we have developed is very valuable, and we hope to build on that to do other research and projects in the future."