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Road Safety and Tobacco Programmes in Viet Nam Visited by Michael Bloomberg

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M bloomberg reutersNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (C) helps a pupil put on a helmet during an event to give children motorcycle helmets at a school in Hanoi March 23, 2012. Bloomberg arrived in Vietnam on Friday to visit programmes supported by his charitable foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies, including tobacco and road safety issues, according to a press release. REUTERS/Kham

Credit: Reuters

Ha Noi, 23 March 2012Mr Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City arrived in Viet Nam today, and is visiting programmes supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies’.

Through the World Health Organization (WHO) and associated partners, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ have been instrumental in supporting programmes on two major public health issues, tobacco and road safety, which combined, claim an estimated 55,000 lives in Viet Nam every year (40,000 for tobacco and a further 15,000 from road trauma).

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ support to road safety in Viet Nam is part of a broader project to facilitate national governments’ uptake of road safety action in 10 low and middle-income countries.  – known as the Road Safety in Ten Countries (RS10) project. These countries collectively represent approximately 50% of the 1.2 million deaths that occur on the world’s roads each year, costing countries between 1% and 3% of their gross national product. Launched in 2010, this project is aligned with the goals of the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety (2011–2020), which aims to stem the expected increase in road traffic deaths over the coming decade. Bloomberg Philanthropies has made a substantial financial contribution in support of accomplishing these objectives.

In Viet Nam the RS10 programme is led by the National Traffic Safety Committee (NTSC) and has a dual focus of reducing drinking and driving and increasing the use of good quality helmets among motorcyclists. Alcohol impairment is a major cause of road traffic injuries in Viet Nam, with an estimated 36% of those injured as a result of road traffic crashes exceeding the legal blood alcohol limit.

As Dr Graham Harrison, acting WHO Representative to Viet Nam explains, “The drink–driving programme in Viet Nam is based on international evidence which shows that legislation and enforcement, coupled with hard-hitting public awareness campaigns, can be extremely effective in reducing alcohol-related road deaths”. RS10 also aims to improve the quality of helmets being worn by motorcyclists: while helmet wearing rates in the country are high following the 2007 helmet law, the proportion of those wearing helmets meeting the national standard remains low, at about 20%, greatly reducing the potential to prevent traumatic brain injuries in the event of a crash.

Mr. Than Van Thanh – Chief Secretariat of the NTSC said, “RS10 has provided valuable financial and technical support, contributing to Viet Nam’s commitment to preventing drink-driving.”  “Preliminary results are very promising, showing small but significant reductions in road traffic fatalities and serious injuries in both Ha Nam and Ninh Binh provinces”.

Plans for 2012-2013 are to scale-up this effective programme, bringing technical and financial support to three additional provinces (Vinh Phuc, Quang Ninh and Bac Ninh).

Mayor Bloomberg has also provided crucial and strategic support to reduce tobacco use, a leading cause of preventable death in Viet Nam and a major risk factor for non communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, emphysema and other respiratory ailments. The “Bloomberg Initiative”, which commenced in 2007, emphasizes six proven policies to reduce tobacco use (MPOWER)#. “Viet Nam is one of 15 low and middle income countries in this programme, selected for the un-enviable position of having the highest number of smokers” said Dr Harrison.  “Locally almost 50% of males smoke, exposing two-thirds of women and an estimated 50% of children to the harmful effects of second hand smoke.”

Support through the Bloomberg Initiative and its partners and grantees has resulted in an unprecedented acceleration of tobacco control advocacy for key measures that can reduce tobacco consumption including raising of prices and taxes, bans on in-door smoking and comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.  It is widely perceived that the Bloomberg Initiative projects have effectively created new policy space as well as strong public support for tobacco control measures. “

The draft tobacco control law is anticipated to be finalized during the May 2012 session of the National Assembly.  “Once approved Viet Nam’s tobacco control law will set the scene for significant reductions in tobacco related harm,” said Dr Luong Ngoc Khue, the Director of the Standing Office of the Viet Nam Committee on Smoking and Health (VINACOSH).  “At the provincial level, a growing number of workplaces and public places are already becoming smoke-free, creating healthier work and public places in Viet Nam” he added.

 “WHO highly values the commitment and support of the Government and Mayor Bloomberg in tackling these major public health challenges.  We look forward to continuing our strong cooperation with national and provincial stakeholders to achieve our common goal of saving lives and preventing disability in Viet Nam” concluded Dr Harrison.

Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
Protect people from second-hand tobacco smoke,
Offer help to quit smoking,
Warn about the dangers of tobacco
Enforce ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
Raise tax on tobacco products


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