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Publication date: 
March 7, 2014

On paper, it can sound like a straightforward goal: reduce tobacco usage worldwide to lower the health impacts from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Achieving it is far from easy.

The researchers and staff at Fogarty International Center — the global-health-focused arm of the National Institutes of Health — understand the challenge. For more than a decade, Fogarty has led the International Tobacco and Health Research and Capacity Building Program, and in reviewing its efforts, Fogarty looks to burden of disease studies for guidance.

“The findings of the landmark Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 should serve as a wake-up call for all of us,” said Dr. Roger I. Glass, Director of Fogarty International. “The study's findings are particularly valuable and timely for us at Fogarty as we finalize a new strategic plan that will guide us for the next five years.”

Fogarty is using Global Burden of Disease (GBD) findings and other research studies as it prepares its battle plan against non-communicable diseases. For example, Fogarty is considering retailoring its tobacco program to fit the needs of low- and middle-income countries around the world. GBD results illuminate the risk of tobacco: the study found smoking was the third-highest risk factor for premature death and disability globally in 2010. However, while this research is useful, there remain areas in which more, or better, data are needed. Specifically, information regarding the relationship between women in low- and middle-income countries and tobacco, and data regarding the use of tobacco products other than cigarettes are needed to fill critical gaps in knowledge.

Armed with additional data, policymakers will be able to more effectively control tobacco in their countries. Also, as studies using these data are published and incorporated in the GBD research, GBD estimates will improve. While Fogarty has been able to use GBD evidence to improve its anti-tobacco initiatives, its focus on filling key gaps in tobacco-related data compliments GBD researchers’ efforts to furnish the most rigorous evidence possible for decision-making.