The World Health Organization (WHO) has given an award to the late health minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih for her leadership and contribution to health development efforts in controlling tobacco consumption in Indonesia.
In a ceremony held at the Health Ministry on Wednesday, WHO Representative in Indonesia Khanchit Limpakarnjanarat presented the 2012 World No Tobacco Day Award, signed by WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan.
“We acknowledge with respect the commitment, wisdom and consistency of the Health Ministry’s policies on defending public health during her leadership,” he said during the ceremony attended by acting Health Minister Ali Ghufron Mukti and senior health officials, as well as Endang’s husband Makentur Reany Mamahit.
According to the WHO, tobacco consumption has been increasing in many countries, including Indonesia.
In 1988, countries proclaimed May 31 as World No Tobacco Day after a string of decisions took place in several annual world health assemblies.
The awareness and commitment of many countries in overcoming tobacco-related health concerns have continued to grow as more findings of various studies have shown the severe impacts of tobacco to human health.
Endang’s nomination for this award was proposed by NGO leaders and was then forwarded to WHO headquarters in February 2012.
Limpakarnjanarat said Endang had expressed a consistency in promoting a tobacco control policy.
“We were convinced of her commitment when she took the lead to organize the formulation of the draft regulation on controlling the public health impacts of tobacco as an addictive substance as stipulated in Law No.36/2009 on Health,” he said.
During his speech, Limpakarnjanarat conveyed his personal notes saying that during his 2 and a half year assignment in Indonesia, he was very pleased that all stakeholders could get together and develop a network on tobacco control.
“This network can make us stronger in defending public health instead of working alone. I hope this partnership can continue,” he said.
Studies show that about 70 to 80 percent of smoking-related deaths take place in developing countries, including Indonesia.
Cigarette consumption in Indonesia accounts for 4.8 percent of world consumption and 46 percent among ASEAN member countries, Health Ministry data says.
The ministry's data also shows that 59.5 percent of non-communicable diseases are related to cigarette smoking.
Acting Health Minister Ghufron said that with her consistency and courage, former minister Endang had relentlessly led efforts to control the negative impacts of cigarette smoking on human health.
“She is truly a hero in tackling cigarette-related health problems in Indonesia. We have seen how she dared to promote the establishment of a draft of a government regulation (PP) aiming to control tobacco consumption for the sake of people’s health in the country, no matter how strong the criticisms against her,” Ghufron said.
The draft is now with the President’s office.
“I hope the draft regulation will be signed [by the President] quite soon,” Ghufron said.
Minister Endang died of lung cancer at Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital (RSCM) in Jakarta in May.