As part of its advocacy work to promote health rights, HealthBridge partner Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust has been advocating for years for the establishment of a Health Promotion Foundation in Bangladesh. Health Promotion Foundations are an effective mechanism to ensure a healthier population through various activities including research, communications, networking, advocacy and grantmaking. Health Promotion Foundations are typically funded through a dedicated tax on tobacco and alcohol, thus avoiding the need to plead for a budget each year from central government. The most famous and successful example in Asia is ThaiHealth.
In late November 2022, a team from WBB Trust, including the HealthBridge Senior Advisor Debra Efroymson, visited ThaiHealth. Mr. Rungsun Munkong, International Relations Expert, explained about the operations of the foundation and showed off their health-promoting building, which is designed to improve the physical and mental health of their employees by providing abundant outdoor seating, opportunities to move about and stand during meetings, and even a rooftop garden and gym. The team also met with Bungon Ritthipakdee, Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), who gave a presentation highlighting the ways in which ThaiHealth has enabled effective tobacco control in Thailand. (A fun side note: the team hoped to witness the new plain packaging, but saw almost nobody smoking and never saw a cigarette pack during the multi-day visit.) Another high point of the visit was a meeting with Prakit Vathesatogkit. Executive Secretary of Action on Smoking and Health Foundation (ASH), who played a major role in establishing ThaiHealth and was the Deputy Board Director of Thai Health from 2001-2004.
The team hoped to witness the new plain packaging, but saw almost nobody smoking and never saw a cigarette pack during the multi-day visit.
WBB Trust staff are continuing their campaign to have a Health Promotion Foundation established in Bangladesh, and are currently planning to commission a study to look at the projected increase in the budget of the Ministry of Health and how the establishment of a Health Promotion Foundation could lead to significant savings in health care costs.