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Waterloo researcher recognized as a world leader in tobacco control

Waterloo - The American Cancer Society has given a researcher from the University of Waterloo the award considered the top in the world for tobacco control. Professor Geoffrey Fong received one of the American Cancer Society’s Luther R. Terry Awards for Outstanding Research Contribution.

Professor Fong, of the Department of Psychology and the School of Public Health and Health Systems at Waterloo, founded the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation (ITC) Project in 2002. It has been at the forefront of research that combats tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death in the world.

Tobacco use is projected to kill one billion people in the 21st century, with 80 per cent of the deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

“I am indeed fortunate to be at a university that is so supportive of entrepreneurial research endeavours,” said Professor Fong. “The ITC Project is truly a transdisciplinary research endeavour where, in addition to international partners, there is collaboration across three faculties at Waterloo: Arts, Math, and Applied Health Sciences.”

The award committee recognized Professor Fong’s leadership in creating the ITC Project, his achievement in building a network of more than 100 researchers in more than 20 countries, and for its very high productivity. The member countries represent more than half of the world's population. The ITC Project has published more than 300 scientific articles in the past 10 years.

The ITC Project conducts surveys of thousands of people to assess the impact of tobacco control policies in each participating country. The research examines the effectiveness of strategies such as warning labels, pricing and taxation, smoke-free laws and education. These are policies listed in the world’s first health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been ratified by 180 countries, including Canada.

The award committee also acknowledged Professor Fong for the ITC Project’s innovative ways of communicating its findings. The ITC Project delivers reports and presentations on the most effective tobacco control practices to governments, advocates, policymakers and international organizations, including the World Health Organization.

Two other researchers from the ITC Project team have received this honour in past years, and two other ITC researchers are receiving Luther R. Terry Awards this year, for Outstanding Individual Leadership and Outstanding Research Contribution.

“The ITC Project's list of recipients of the Luther R. Terry Award is a strong and public recognition of the importance of our research for the scientific community and for global health,” said Professor Fong. “The University of Waterloo has made it possible for us to conduct and effectively disseminate research that promotes global health.”

The society gives these awards only once every three years. Professor Fong received his at the World Conference for Tobacco OR Health in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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