Strengthening tobacco control in Jordan: the importance of an engaged and informed stakeholder

In the summer of 2012, the King Hussein Cancer Foundation and Center (KHCF/KHCC) launched a long-term initiative to engage stakeholders and strengthen their awareness of and dedication to tobacco control (TC). The Strengthening National Tobacco Control Project seeks to reaffirm political commitment to TC and to provide a roadmap for taking TC in Jordan to the next level. The project -led by the Cancer Control Office (CCO) at KHCC- is jointly funded by KHCF/KHCC and the Meet the Targets Program (launched by the American Cancer Society to support national advocacy efforts in line with targets established during the UN High-level Meeting on NCDs).

The project was designed to encompass three phases. While the first phase aimed to generate a comprehensive report assessing the situation of TC in Jordan, the second phase brought together local stakeholders to set priorities and recommend actions for a strengthened approach towards TC. The third, and last, phase aims to capture value from the global experience through bringing together local stakeholders with international experts to provide a perspective on the conduciveness of prioritized endeavors.

Over the past 15 months, we successfully completed the first two phases and generated a report on the status quo of TC in Jordan including a section listing priorities and proposed work to strengthen efforts. The actual assessment of the situation followed a skeleton based on a detailed review of international treaties and guidelines (the FCTC, MPOWER, the Global Tobacco Control Report, and CDC’s guidelines for tobacco control). This skeleton highlighted several TC components to be analyzed and served as a framework for data collection. Accordingly, desk research and interviews were utilized to generate data for the report, a survey was conducted to understand public opinions and knowledge, and a comprehensive legislative stock take and review was performed. Results were published in the “Status Quo of Tobacco Control in Jordan” report.

However, successful policy change requires buy-in and ownership from various stakeholders; this is what those first two phases have been able to attain. We have so far achieved a solid base of engagement that was most recently depicted during a series of workshops held in June and September to involve the stakeholders in prioritizing and planning for strengthened TC. A national workshop was held in late June to launch the “Status Quo of Tobacco Control in Jordan” report and identify pressing priorities for Jordan, while indirectly educating the attendees –and consequently their organizations- about TC. We invited close to 70 stakeholder organizations from the governmental, non-governmental, civil society, and media sectors. The workshop brought together attendees -based on their organizations’ interest and stake in tobacco control- into working groups commissioned with identifying priorities. The level of commitment was outstanding, translating into an excellent turnout during the second set of workshops held separately for each working group in September. This second set of workshops was characterized by proactive participation where individuals brought forward ideas of their own to help address priorities. Such frequent encounters have created communication channels between stakeholders focusing on TC. Finally, this work has helped gain additional presence for TC in traditional media and social media.

Our success builds largely on earlier efforts to recruit the Ministry of Health as a co-owner on the project and to involve stakeholder organizations and their representatives. The process of generating the report relied heavily on an active role for stakeholders in the tasks undertaken to generate the report (stakeholder analysis, data collection, surveying the public, and legislative assessment).

The remaining 9 months of the project life aim to introduce an international perspective based on the successes and achievements of the global community in TC. The main outcomes we foresee once the project is completed are a structured nucleus for a TC roadmap, a multi-sectorial approach to TC, and a case study which could serve as a model in the region.

About the Author: Rasha Bader is Head of Planning and Project Management at the Cancer Control Office at KHCC and is the Operations Manager for Global Bridges in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.