Tobacco Free Dubai Project shares success

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The Tobacco Free Dubai project was inspired by the World Health Organization’s slogan, “World Without Tobacco.” The goal is to make Dubai proactive in adopting the trend towards a healthy society without tobacco. This is in line with the strategy of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and primary health care efforts in both health promotion and disease prevention. It also raises public health awareness in Dubai about the health hazards of smoking, particularly among students. Additionally, it emphasizes the need for the establishment of a strong infrastructure for a system to support and treat smokers who are trying to quit using tobacco.

After creating this promising project and its objectives, and preparing and compiling the competencies and individuals from the community needed to work on the project, a range of community activities and a series of awareness campaigns were launched. One example is “Ramadan campaign – together for a society free of smoking”. This campaign is important since the holy month of Ramadan is considered a golden opportunity for smokers to quit. Another example is the “Together we protect our youth and our children from smoking,” campaign which focused on young people and children. “Quit to save yourself and others around you” is a campaign which  targeted government employees. And finally, the “Healthy and Beautiful Without Smoking” campaign focused on the effects of smoking on women’s health as well as the celebration of World No Tobacco Day in May.

And project activities continue.

Tobacco Free Dubai uses all types of written and audio-visual media as well as social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the various campaigns and as a way to repeatedly invite all segments of society to actively participate in the fight against tobacco.

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The project’s campaigns coincided with the launch of a smoking cessation clinic at al Tawar Health Center – Primary Health Care Services Sector – Dubai Health Authority, which strives to become a center for helping and treating tobacco users quickly and effectively.

After all of this hard work, the Tobacco-Free Dubai team won the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts. This represents a quantum leap in the course of the project and started a new phase as the Dubai Health Authority organized the “Tobacco Dependence Treatment Training Workshop” in collaboration with Global Bridges  and the King Hussein Cancer Center.  This training course was held in January 2013 at Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai, and it was aimed at training health care providers on the use of the latest advanced methods and means in treating tobacco addiction through new recommendations based on global scientific evidence.

It should be noted that the Tobacco-Free Dubai (TFD) project targeted interventions in a number of public and private schools and universities in the Emirate of Dubai. The prevalence of tobacco use among school and university students was measured in addition to the reasons for smoking. Some of the most cited reasons that pushed young people to smoke were found to be: to experience it, to ease psychological pressure, imitating friends, social problems, and smoking parents. It was found that the prevalence of tobacco use in schools was 14.6%; males 21.7% and females 6.2%. In universities 17.8% were smokers; males 35.3% and females 10.4%. A total of 29.1% of school students and 46.4% of university students were exposed to secondhand smoke.

23Aug2013-blog104-photo3Based upon this information, the TFD team launched a number of awareness campaigns for male and female students in schools and universities. The team wanted to study the impact of the programs on the knowledge level and behavior change among male and female students with regards to smoking health hazards.

A variety of educational tools were used in the program including lectures, workshops, movies showing testimonials, and educational leaflets and brochures.

Scientific methods were used in the evaluation, such as questionnaires to measure the level of knowledge and smoking trends among the students before and after the program to compare the results, and to measure the satisfaction of the participants.

After the emergence of these results, a smoking cessation clinic was established on campus at the Higher Technology College for Men. The presence of this clinic plays a unique role away from the restrictions that young people may feel. It also helps preserve their privacy, allowing them to take the initiative to attend the clinic.

The Tobacco-Free Dubai project celebrated the clinic opening with an art exhibition at Dubai Men’s College from February through May 2013, which featured works of art about smoking hazards created by students. This was followed by the “Tobacco free Dubai campaign” at Dubai Mall on World No Tobacco Day 2013. This campaign aimed to raise public awareness about the harmful effects of smoking.

About the Author: Dr. Hanan Ali Mubarak Obaid, is the Head of Community Health Services Programs Section – Health Affairs Department- Primary Health Care Sector at Dubai Health Authority. She is a Regional Consultant for Global Bridges EMR in Dubai.