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American Cancer Society honours U of T Professor Prabhat Jha

Luther L. Terry Award recognizes groundbreaking research

Professor Prabhat Jha, recipient of 2012 Luther L. Terry Award. (Photo courtesy of Professor Jha)

The American Cancer Society has recognized U of T Medicine Professor Prabhat Jha with a 2012 Luther L. Terry award for Outstanding Research Contribution for his globally influential work on tobacco control.

"It's a recognition that books do save lives," said  Jha. "Good analytic work is important for good advocacy and I’m honoured to receive this award.”

Jha, who holds the University of Toronto Chair in Disease Control and is the director of the Centre for Research in Global Health at St. Michael’s Hospital and U of T, received the award  at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore March 21.

Jha’s research on the epidemiology and economics of tobacco control includes the renowned 1999 World Bank report of which he was the lead author. Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control was translated into over 25 languages and led to the first global treaty on tobacco, signed by more than 160 countries.

The treaty — the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — provided nations with a blueprint to adopt clean air laws, restrict advertising for smoking and raise cigarette taxes, among other measures.

“Professor Jha is a superb scientist and a most fitting recipient of this prestigious global award,” said Dr. Catharine Whiteside, Dean of U of T Medicine and Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions. “His innovative research and advocacy have brought the campaign for tobacco control to nations where it is now most urgently needed.”

Today, Jha continues to conduct research on tobacco control in developed and developing countries. He recently showed that tobacco control has reduced differences in mortality risk between the wealthy and poor in Canada. And he is the principal investigator of the “Million Death Study,” an ongoing examination of health, disease and mortality launched in India in 2002. That study’s researchers move door-to-door to collect data on 15 million people—many rural and poor, with little access to institutional medical care—and whose exclusion from previous research may have contributed to inaccurate assumptions about disease prevalence and risk.

Jha and his colleagues will publish further results from the "Million Death Study" in the journal The Lancet on March 28, including data on prevention of tobacco-related cancers.

While developed countries have seen a long-term drop in smoking rates—in Canada, more than one million Canadians have quit smoking over the last decade—many developing countries such as China, India and Indonesia have been beset by increases. Rising incomes and the decreasing relative price of cigarettes have combined to make smoking more affordable, and several developing countries now have smoking rates comparable to those of developed countries in the early 1960s.

“In China and India, one million people are dying every year from smoking in each country,” said Jha. “There's no reason they can't knock those rates down in the same way Canada has. If the world did more of what Canada has done, particularly in terms of higher tobacco taxes and restrictions on advertising, it would save not just tens of thousands of lives, but tens of millions. That's what's important about tobacco control.”

The American Cancer Society bestows the Luther L. Terry award for Outstanding Research Contribution every three years. The awards are named for the former U.S. Surgeon General whose 1964 Surgeon General’s Report provided scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and other diseases.

March 22, 2012