Jordan hosts a regional conference on strengthening tobacco dependence treatment

Amman 11/ 11/2013-Under the patronage of HRH Princess Dina Mired, Director General  of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation (KHCF), the three-day regional conference “Towards strengthened tobacco dependence treatment in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: addressing Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)’s Article 14” opened yesterday, Monday, in Amman. The conference comes as a collaborative effort between the King Hussein Cancer Foundation and Center, the Jordanian Ministry of Health, Global Bridges, the World Health Organization (WHO) (Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean), the American Cancer Society, and Treatobacco.net.

Participants from more than 20 countries are attending the conference, including healthcare professionals, academia professors, and decision makers from ministries and authorities of health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). The conference, which spans three days, brings together activists from EMR together with global experts to build the participants’ capacity to better fulfill the requirements of Article 14 of the FCTC. Through Article 14, the FCTC demands countries to develop and disseminate evidence-based treatment guidelines; promote cessation; and offer tobacco dependence treatment services through primary healthcare, workplaces, and educational institutions.

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Accordingly, the conference presents Jordan as a model in strengthening tobacco control efforts in general and in fulfilling Article 14 requirements in specific. During the first day, the conference showcases Jordan’s experience in strengthening national tobacco control through presenting the Status Quo of Tobacco Control in Jordan Report that was recently completed. The conference also presents the process and output for developing national tobacco dependence treatment (TDT) guidelines that equip physicians in primary and specialized care to offer TDT services to patients. Developed by King Hussein Cancer Center and the Ministry of Health, these guidelines are presented for discussion and endorsement locally, and as a model to build on for other countries.

In addition, the conference discusses advanced topics in TDT including treatment in psychiatric patients, advocacy for tobacco control, prevention and treatment in young adults, and strategies and tactics of the tobacco industry.

In her opening speech, HRH Princess Dina stressed on the importance of this conference adding: “The situation is getting serious. We non-smokers need to make our voices heard. We need to demand our right to breathe clean air. We need to ask our government to implement the law that bans smoking in public places. We need to ask for making cigarettes not accessible to children below 18 years of age, to ban selling them right outside an elementary school! We need to raise the prices of cigarettes. We need to stop the slow killing of our children and of our citizens.”

HE Dr. Ali Alhyasat, Minister of Health said:” Realizing the addictive nature of tobacco, we believe in offering help to assist in quitting tobacco use. Accordingly, the Ministry of Health provides counseling services for free to all Jordanians intending to quit smoking. Our clinics in the Northern, Central, and Southern regions offer tobacco dependence treatment and have been supplied with necessary medication and equipped with trained doctors and personnel. Specifically on training, we are proud to collaborate with KHCC and the WHO to build capacity of our staff in evidence-based treatment methods. This interest in availing tobacco dependence treatment stems from our realization of the association between tobacco use and the burden of disease, which in turn strains and depletes limited national resources”.

Dr. Akram Ali Eltom, WHO Representative for Jordan said: ““As part of a comprehensive set of legal, economic, behavioral and health measures, WHO strongly recommends the scale-up of national tobacco dependence treatment services.  In Jordan, they exist but they need to be expanded and made more accessible to the over 60% of Jordanian smokers who have expressed their desire to quit smoking.  We hope this conference helps make such services available in Jordan and the region to contribute to combating the dangerously high prevalence of smoking”.

Dr. Feras Hawari -Director of the Cancer Control Office at KHCC and Regional Director for Global Bridges in the EMR- discussed the shortage of TDT services and resources in the region, and the need to build capacity in this field. He stressed the need for providing TDT guidelines to healthcare professionals saying:”We are proud of the role that Jordan has played in the region in building capacity of healthcare professionals to offer TDT. Over the past three years, KHCC –the regional partner for Global Bridges- and the Ministry of Health have been able to train more than 700 providers and activists from the various countries of EMR. At this point, availing guidelines is critical to equip those with no direct access to training to provide the service. Jordan has been a pioneer in providing training, and we hope we will provide a pioneer model for guidelines that other countries can build on.”