Tunisian Ministry of Health Collaborates With Global Bridges to Advance Tobacco Control

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In December 2011, a team from the Global Bridges Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) conducted a three-day workshop in Tunis to train 23 participants from different regions of Tunisia on tobacco dependence treatment.

According to Mounira Masmoudi Nabli, M.D., coordinator of the Tunisian Tobacco Control Program and regional consultant for the Global Bridges EMR, this workshop was different from others previously conducted in Tunisia because it introduced counseling in a very scientific and structured format. Participants left extremely satisfied, leading the Ministry of Health to request another workshop for spring 2012.

The topics of motivational interviewing and individualized treatment plans were particularly valuable to participants. Trainers and presenters also benefited, saying that participants’ strong commitment was evident and that this helps them as they evaluate and improve the content and structure of future workshops.

Format and topics

The workshop included lectures and interactive exercises about basic tobacco control principles and tobacco dependence treatment. Throughout the workshop, participants were able to practice their new skills in scenarios inspired by trainers’ real-world experiences.

The first day focused on building the case for tobacco control and tobacco dependence treatment by measuring progress in Tunisia against proven strategies. It also introduced the harms of tobacco and benefits of quitting; the spectrum of tobacco products; available treatment methods and the evidence behind the proven ones; and the smoker’s journey from initiation through dependence, withdrawal and relapse.

The final two days, which focused on treatment, covered motivational interviewing, pharmacotherapy and drafting a treatment plan. Also discussed were ethical considerations related to treatment and the logistics of starting and sustaining a tobacco dependence treatment service.

Results

Participants with no previous experience found the training to be eye-opening, while experienced participants improved their ability to handle various cases and offer training to fellow practitioners.

When asked about next steps, participants’ responses included, “I will start using combination therapy”; “I will enhance the way I engage with and motivate my patients”; and “I will start paying more attention to cases that don’t succeed the first time.”

Many attendees became interested in evaluating the outcomes of their own practices and training their colleagues in tobacco dependence treatment strategies. Others were determined to establish tobacco dependence treatment services in their areas or revive initiatives that had lost traction over time.

“The success of this workshop can be attributed to the diverse experience that our team brings in,” says Feras Hawari, M.D., director of the Cancer Control Office at King Hussein Cancer Center and regional director of the Global Bridges EMR. “Collectively, our team has experience in both tobacco dependence treatment and designing and executing training workshops. It’s truly a winning combination.”

In the first half of 2012, the Global Bridges EMR team plans to conduct workshops in Egypt (March), the United Arab Emirates (April) and Tunisia (May).

About the Author: Rasha K. Bader, MBA, is the operations manager for the Global Bridges Eastern Mediterranean Region. She is also head of planning and project management in the Cancer Control Office at King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan.