Consumers Empowerment Network
The Thai Food and Drug Administration (Thai FDA) has developed a set of public health management strategies to ensure that all consumer protection measures are implemented for the benefits of consumers as a whole. Obviously, consumer protection is a group of laws designed to cover a broad range of public health initiatives, varying in manufacturing of health products, production control, imports of health products, distribution of health products, quality control of standardized health products, monitoring of illegally manufactured health products, and the promotion of health product-related knowledge. Such strategies are developed to stimulate consumers’ greater potential in selecting the right health products based on the requirements of safe and appropriate consumption. However, due to the limitations of number of officers and investment budget, consumer protection measures cannot efficiently be implemented in Thailand’s remote areas.
Strengthening the consumer’s potential development network in the provincial areas requires efficient collaboration from powerful local organizations, including the local administration office, the municipal public health office, the municipal hospital, the health promotion hospital, groups of public health volunteers, and other local people, which are managed and supervised by the provincial public health office. According to the implementation achieved in the fiscal year 2012, the Consumers Potential Development Network was prepared to cooperate well with the Thai FDA to support the development of knowledge-sharing programs via different sources of learning media.
In the fiscal year 2013, the project was implemented under the theme ‘Knowledge Sharing for Strengthened Consumers Potential Development Network’, in which the Public and Consumer Affairs Division and the Rural and Local Consumer Health Products Promotion Protection Division mutually agreed to develop a consumer protection development and integration program to foster the progress of consumer protection strategies in rural areas, particularly for the development of health products, to conform to the development of consumer protection measures initiated by the central authority. According to the implementation, the network was encouraged to possess greater knowledge and skills to ensure that the project could be achieved as planned. Meanwhile, it is very significant to make use of the lessons learned from the implementation of the project in order to seek greater achievements, solutions for existing problems, and operational procedures required for the advancement of the consumer protection towards quality health products efficiently and appropriately.
Meanwhile, the Thai FDA offered its financial support to the 12-area provincial service network, with effective field studies and follow-up actions required for the progress of the project implementation, totaling seven times. The Thai FDA also held its national forum for network to exchange their consumer protection insights and share their public health-related experiences so as to stimulate effective solutions for crucial problems related to consumer protection, while also building a concrete relationship between the people’s network and government agencies.
For the fiscal year 2014, the project was developed under the ‘Strong Network for Greater Consumer Protection Development’ concept. It was obvious that public health volunteers had played a vital role in implementing the project in provincial areas throughout the country. The Thai FDA therefore determined to promote the potential of public health volunteers to help monitor people’s consumption behavior aiming for a better quality of life and healthy living. The Thai FDA also offered its supporting budget to the Area 2 provincial service network during the year, with the launch of six network appreciation projects. A national forum was also organized to support the advancement of consumer protection development.
In the fiscal year 2015, the Thai FDA launched a new consumer-related project under the theme ‘Steroid-Free Village’, initiated by the Public Health Minister, aiming to encourage people to avoid using steroids, which could be found variously in locally produced medicines and energy drinks. The new project focused on greater development of the event-based surveillance and the enforcement of related laws following the health products after being introduced to the market. The Thai FDA therefore approved the establishment of a steroid-free village in four regions, in which Lampang, Lopburi, KhonKaen, and SuratThani were the most outstanding provinces in being able to get the project implemented efficiently. Backed by proactive strategies, the project aimed to encourage local people to stay away from steroid-added products as well as foster accurate knowledge on the hazards of steroids. This also helped increase the effectiveness of the development of consumer behaviors in collaboration with the local network, which was resulted in the successful steroid-prohibition network.
For the fiscal year 2016, the Thai FDA determined to focus on the theme ‘Good Health of ASEAN Community Workers’. Currently, a large number of foreign workers from neighboring countries are gushing into Thailand and they can be seen in almost every part of the country. As most of the foreign workers are from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, they are pitifully chosen to work in labor-class businesses, such as agriculture, industry, fishery, construction, and home-based care. For several businesses, foreign workers have been expected to fill the operational performance gap, particularly in production, which requires physical strength despite low wages. It is quite obvious that Thai people remain ignorant of these types of occupations. Therefore, foreign laborers are very important to Thailand as they help accelerate the national economic progress.
However, due to the growing number of foreign workers, Thailand is inevitably bundled into several associated problems related to society, public health, and national integrity. The Thai government has to spend a massive portion of its budget in eliminating such difficulties each year. At the same time, the Thai FDA is prompt in providing foreign workers with accurate knowledge on safe and sanitary consumption of health products, as part of the intention to reduce the risks of food contamination, infectious diseases, inferior cosmetics, unprepared pregnancies, intentional use of low quality condoms, and misuse of pharmaceutical drugs.
The Thai FDA has also reiterated its intention to encourage business entrepreneurs to pay closer attention to the development of quality of life and healthy living for foreign laborers by launching a knowledge-based campaign ‘Sister Uses Wisely, Brother Chooses Smartly’ to provide people with sufficient knowledge on the smart use and consumption of quality health products. Initiated in SamutSakhon and SamutPrakan provinces, the campaign is also promoted to focus on the acknowledgement of sufficient information written on the labels of various health products. Focusing mainly on Myanmar-based workers, a comprehensive range of knowledgeable and entertainment activities have been organized to ensure that this group of laborers can increase their public health-related knowledge efficiently and appropriately. This also includes the complete monitoring of health products available in different communal areas near the production factories, which is accomplished by the cooperation of related agenciesincluding the provincial public health office, the provincial administrative organization, the sub-district health promotion hospital, the mobile unit for food safety, and the public health volunteer team. The mentioned groups have been assigned to provide sufficient knowledge for local vendors and consumers, while getting ready for the contamination tests of sample food products selected from certain fresh markets. To ensure clearer understanding on such knowledge, promotional documents have been prepared in three languages, including Thai, Burmese, and English. Surprisingly, nearly 3,000 Myanmar-based workers have participated in the activity.