Founding members of INWAT:Patti White and Alison Hillhouse
Patti White and Alison Hillhouse played key roles in establishing INWAT and INWAT Europe. Both were outstanding leaders and advocates. INWAT members around the world feel a profound loss at their passing and a great pride in paying tribute here to their passion and determination, and their great achievements.
12 May 1949 – 21 March 2015
Patti grew up in Yoakum, Texas, USA. After her degree in Classical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, she came to London where in 1976 she met Tim Mathews. In 1978 they were married and they continued to live together in London and Cambridge until her death. They adopted their son Sonny in September 1994 and their second son Guy was born to them in May 1995.
In 1978, Patti joined Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in London as Information Officer. She developed from scratch much-needed services for advocates in the UK and other countries, highlighting the latest scientific findings on the damage caused by tobacco use. She marshalled evidence on the exploitation of women by the tobacco industry and together with Alison, she was instrumental in creating and sustaining the ASH Women and Smoking Group, which campaigned successfully to end tobacco advertising in women’s magazines. Later as Deputy Director of ASH, she became a skilled advocate dealing directly with parliamentarians and the media.
In 1987, the World Health Organization (WHO) engaged her to set up the Smoke-Free Europe project and draft the first regional Action Plan, out of their regional office in Copenhagen. She co-planned and ran the First European Conference on Tobacco (Madrid 1988), edited eight policy papers in five languages, and wrote the conference report, It Can Be Done: milestones for strong tobacco policy around the world.
Back in the UK, by the early ’90s Patti had joined the small tobacco team at Health Education Authority (HEA) where she led truly ground-breaking policy work on inequalities, smuggling, taxation and labelling, while running public education campaigns on smoking in pregnancy and passive smoking.
She worked tirelessly, doing the strategic thinking, assembling the evidence, writing the plans and the presentations (often given by others), supporting colleagues, providing training, mobilising resources. Her talents as a writer, and as a first-class editor, were deeply appreciated by her team-mates at the HEA, the Health Development Agency, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and WHO.
Over the years, Patti became a mentor to many, especially to younger women. She always gave her time generously to help her colleagues all over the world.
She was in the leadership team of INWAT for 25 years, serving as Vice-President for a decade. From 1999 she spearheaded production of The Net magazine, an e-publication supporting tobacco control research, advocacy, and policy.
Her international work was crucial to her. Consulting for the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease, she was instrumental in building up and supporting new teams of advocates in both Poland and Georgia.
2015 brought long overdue recognition of her accomplishments and their far-reaching significance. She was awarded the Luther Terry Medal by the American Cancer Society, and made an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians.
Patti was motivated by her sense of justice, her dedication to supporting young people working for health nationally and internationally, and above all her family. Her generosity, her grace and her courage leave a void in the lives of everyone who knew her.
In 2015 the HealthBridge Patti White Fund was established “in honour of Patti White, a lifelong advocate on issues of women’s rights and public health”. Her friend David Sweanor established the Fund by donating $20,000.00 to HealthBridge to further international work on these issues. The money is being used to support increasing women’s access to health services among the most vulnerable and marginalized, addressing critical issues of gender equality and the right to health. www.healthbridge.ca
5 February 1939 – 17 September 2015
Alison grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. After reading history at Oxford and work in the Foreign Office and the public Record Office she married Russell Hillhouse, a civil servant, and moved back to Edinburgh, where her two daughters, Catriona and Susie, were born. She was a supportive mother, an adventurous cook and a keen gardener, loved books and theatre. Her greatest passion was probably birdwatching, which led to many exciting foreign holidays.
In 1975, Alison started work as an assistant to Eileen Crofton, the first director of the fledgling ASH Scotland. Alison took over as director in 1984 when Eileen retired, and served until 1995. Through Alison’s leadership ASH Scotland grew from just two people working part-time to an organisation of 17 staff providing a range of services. It also became an independent organisation, though still part of the ASH UK family, which enabled it to work more effectively with Scottish institutions and media.
Alison played a crucial, pioneering role in raising the public’s and politicians’ awareness of the importance of taking action on smoking. This was challenging, as in the 1970s and 80s smoking was still the norm in Scotland and the UK. She did this through being a brilliant advocate, using both charm and persistence. Often described as a “feisty woman”, she was also efficient, authoritative, witty, creative and forthright.
A hallmark of Alison’s approach was to work in a collaborative and supportive way with others to achieve the shared goal of defeating Big Tobacco. This was reflected in her inspiring leadership as Chair of the UK’s No Smoking Day Committee, which became one of the most cost-effective smoking cessation campaigns in the world. Also in the way that she worked with colleagues in dentistry and medicine and, crucially, local mothers to stop the building of a Skoal Bandits factory in Scotland, which would have introduced a new form of smokeless tobacco to the UK that was attractive to children. This was an issue that she felt particularly strongly about as protecting children from tobacco harms was a fundamental principle of her work. She was, for example, involved her in establishing the innovative Smokebusters clubs for children in Grampian.
Alison used scientific evidence in highly creative ways to attract the attention of the media and politicians. One of the most successful was the Scottish Epidemic Report, produced in collaboration with the late Ken Brotherston. This published Scottish smoking death rates by parliamentary constituency and local authority area, and was sent to every MP and councillor in Scotland. This report was world-leading, brought home to policy makers the enormous toll from tobacco among their constituents, and led to numerous similar publications around the world.
Last, but not least, was her pioneering work on women and smoking. When Alison joined ASH Scotland smoking was not recognised as a major women’s health issue. Together with Eileen Crofton, Patti White and others, she set about changing this. This included establishing in 1984 the UK ASH Women and Smoking Group, which produced a series of ground-breaking expert reports on women and smoking issues. In 1990 she became a founding member of the INWAT, and played a key role in establishing INWAT Europe. She continued to be an active member long after she retired. She was also involved in developing in Scotland the first community-based projects which used innovative approaches to help disadvantaged women quit smoking.
To all these activities Alison brought enthusiasm, vitality, intelligence, bright ideas, common-sense, wisdom and, above all, a wicked sense of humour and fun. She was a wonderful colleague, mentor and friend who contributed greatly to tobacco control. She will be greatly missed.