Dr. Vishal Rao of Karnataka, India Honored for Leadership in Fight against Tobacco Use
Bengaluru, 12 May, 2017: Dr. U S Vishal Rao of Karnataka, India has been honored with the 2017 Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence for his leadership in the fight against tobacco use in his home state of Karnataka and across India. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) has present Dr. Rao with the award at its annual gala on May 10, 2017, in Washington, D.C. CTFK is a part of Bloomberg & World Health Organizations Tobacco Free Initiative partners working towards implementation of the W.H.O Framework convention on tobacco control. This is the world’s first public health treaty to which more than 180 countries are a signatory.
TheWilkenfeld Award was established in honor of the late Judy Wilkenfeld, thefounder of Tobacco-Free Kids’ international program and a leader in theadoption of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on TobaccoControl (WHO FCTC), the influential international treaty that commits countriesto take strong action to reduce tobacco use. The award is given annually to aninternational tobacco control advocate who has made major contributions toreducing tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries and who inspiresothers to do the same in the spirit exemplified by Wilkenfeld.
Dr. Rao isthe Chief of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology at Healthcare Global EnterpriseCancer Hospital as well as a Member of the High Level Committee on TobaccoControl for the Government of Karnataka and Patron, Voice of Tobacco Victim(VoTV), India.
As both asurgeon and a public health advocate, Dr. Rao has become a leading voice inIndia’s battle against a deadly tobacco epidemic. Dr. Rao has brought togetherleaders from the government, nonprofit and private sectors to encouragecollaboration in taking on the leading cause of preventable death. He hashelped spur tougher enforcement of India’s Cigarettes and Tobacco Products Actof 2003– which bans smoking in many indoor public places, restricts tobaccoadvertising and marketing, and mandates large pictorial health warnings ontobacco packs.
“As asurgeon, I see the impact of tobacco use first hand in my patients,” said Dr.Rao “Treating patients already suffering from the horrible burden oftobacco-related diseases is not enough. We must implement strong laws that helpprevent Indians from starting to smoke. With strong government commitment, collaborationacross sectors, and fierce advocates willing to champion the cause, I know wecan greatly reduce the burden of tobacco use in India.”
Dr. Rao’sefforts have led to a ban on gutka, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes inKarnataka – impacting nearly 65 million people. Dr. Rao has also beeninfluential in defending India’s requirement for pictorial health warningscovering 85 percent of tobacco packs – among the largest in the world.
In additionto greatly impacting India’s policies on tobacco use, Dr. Rao has changed thelives those most affected by the horrible harms of tobacco use. He has designedaffordable voice prosthesis for throat cancer patients who undergolaryngectomies – allowing victims of tobacco use to speak once again.
“TheCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is proud to recognize Dr. Vishal Rao as atireless tobacco control and public health advocate,” said Matthew L. Myers,President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “His commitment to both thosesuffering from the impacts of tobacco use and to future generations of Indians,sets him apart as a true champion for tobacco control in India.”
Globally,tobacco kills six million people each year and is projected to kill one billionpeople this century unless governments take effective action now to reducetobacco use.