MPower: Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Battle Against Tobacco Use

Mike Bloomberg

By Taylor Smith 

“Philanthropy gives us a competitive advantage, we think, in recruiting and retaining talent. And I can tell you from personal experience, it is also good for the bottom line, as good a thing a company can do.” —Michael R. Bloomberg

Headquartered on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Bloomberg Philanthropies was founded in 2006 with the purpose of directing funding and research to five major areas: the environment, public health, the arts, government innovation, and education. By “using data in new ways,” Bloomberg Philanthropies routinely shifts policies and advances progress, legislation, and public opinion. As an example, the organization has potentially saved countless lives by creating solutions proven to curb global tobacco use. According to bloomberg.org, “If left unchecked, tobacco use will kill one billion people this century.”

The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use has committed approximately $1 billion since 2007 to combat tobacco use worldwide. Its Six Proven Tobacco Control Strategies (collectively known as MPower) include oversight and metrics to track tobacco use and legislation; enacting and enforcing smoke-free environments (thereby reducing the threat of secondhand smoke); community initiatives to help current smokers quit tobacco use; impactful package warning labels and press coverage to counteract tobacco industry advertising; enacting and enforcing government legislation to curtail the spread of tobacco industry marketing; and keeping tax rates high for tobacco products and periodically increasing these rates to reduce consumer purchasing power.

As a result of the Bloomberg Initiative, “32 countries have passed 100 percent smoke-free laws and almost 2.3 billion people worldwide are now protected by at least one of the six proven tobacco control policies.” (Tobacco Control in Practice Case Study: https://bloombg.org/2sfqj9H)

Public health programming at Bloomberg Philanthropies is led by epidemiologist and medical doctor Kelly J. Henning. She received her MD from Tufts University School of Medicine and completed internal medicine training at University of Pennsylvania where she also served as an associate professor of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiology. Henning served as the first director of the epidemiology division of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 2003 to 2006. She has operated in her current position at Bloomberg Philanthropies since 2007. On MPower, Henning characterizes the overall strategy as “demand reduction.” In other words, drive people to quit and educate the public to such an extent that they never begin using a tobacco product in the first place.

Since 2013, the Bloomberg Initiative has turned investment towards reducing tobacco consumption rates in low- and middle-income countries, such as Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, and Russia, where smoking statistics are extremely high and arguably culturally ingrained.

Learn about Mpower in its entirety at https://www.who.int/tobacco/mpower/mpower_english.pdf.