Uruguay earns the first-ever “O” Award for leadership in offering help to quit

Global Bridges is very pleased to see Uruguay receive the first-ever “O” award for its pioneering work in offering help to people who want to stop using tobacco.  The award was announced as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies MPOWER Awards for Global Tobacco Control, in a ceremony today in Abu Dhabi at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH). A panel of global tobacco control experts selected the winners.

Uruguay has long been a regional and global leader in all aspects of tobacco control. While the greatest public focus has been on Uruguay’s work in graphic warning labels (which earned a Bloomberg “W” award in 2012) and the promotion of smoke-free environments, their efforts to provide universal access to cessation support are an essential element of overall success.  “If you really want to reach most of the smokers in an entire country, you need to use the primary care level – the family doctor” said cardiologist and advocate Eduardo Bianco. The Fondo Nacional de Recursos partnered with the Ministry of Health in setting up the program. See the video describing Uruguay’s work in cessation support here.

The result of Uruguay’s leadership has been one of the sharpest declines in smoking ever recorded. Between 2006 and 2008, smoking prevalence among adults fell from about 32% to 25% and youth smoking prevalence fell from 32% to 19%[1]. The proportion of pregnant women who quit smoking by their third trimester also decreased markedly, from 42 to 15 percent, according to a separate report[2].

“We are not only improving the health of the adults themselves but of the whole country, since we are turning them into good examples of nonsmoking adults for the young.” The Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control recognize governments or non-governmental organizations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that demonstrate excellent progress or achievement in implementation of the World Health Organization’s MPOWER strategies. WHO identified these six proven measures in an effort to accomplish the objectives of the FCTC:

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use
  • Warn about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship
  • Raise taxes on and prices of tobacco

Since the first MPOWER awards were awarded in Mumbai six years ago, further progress has been made in all policy areas.  Implementation of smoke-free laws, tobacco taxes, and other demand-side policies has increased the need for cessation support, as tobacco users gain motivation to stop tobacco use.  J.Taylor Hays, M.D., Director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and Chair of Global Bridges, says: “We owe it to existing smokers to help them quit, so that they can spread the message to others and help prevent the loss of more lives to tobacco. The treatment of tobacco dependence is more than medication: it spans a spectrum from policy to face-to-face intervention and must urgently become a higher priority for the anti-tobacco community.”

A partnership between Pfizer Independent Grants for Learning & Change (IGLC) and Global Bridges recently awarded $2.3 million in funding for 19 grant projects to support healthcare professional training and advocacy in LMICs. This targeted support will help other nations follow Uruguay’s example.

[1] Esteves, E, et a, Tratimiento de la dependencia al Tabaco: Experiencia del Fondo Nacional Recursos. Rev Urug Cardio, 2011, 26, 78-83.

[2] Harris, JE, Balsa, AI, Triunfo, P. NBER Working Paper No. 19878, January, 2014.