Moroccan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University and Tunisian Ministry of Health spearhead TDT training in North Africa

By Rasha Bader

King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) recently completed two workshops to build the capacity of tobacco dependence treatment (TDT) trainers in Morocco and Tunisia.

The workshop in Fez, Morocco was conducted in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University.

The workshop in Tunis was conducted in collaboration with the Primary Healthcare Directorate at the Ministry of Health in Tunisia.

Participants represented various geographic areas of their countries, a diversity of specialties, and several key organizations providing services and education in the field of healthcare. This marks an important milestone for the Expand Availability of TDT Services in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) Program; four TDT training hubs are ready to offer services throughout the Arab World.

The project seeks to address some of the barriers facing the growth of TDT services in the region, including the lack of skill among healthcare providers (HCPs), the lack of trainers in the field, and the lack of access to evidence-based resources.

Thus with support from KHCC, collaborators from the four participating countries – Oman, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco – worked more than 18 months on assessing TDT training availability and needs in their relative countries; designing country-specific training programs that match the needs of HCPs in each country; developing content in Arabic, English, and French; and building a network of dedicated and well-equipped in-country faculty.

Outcomes of the workshops are outstanding. In Morocco, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University is bringing together the Moroccan faculty to strengthen the TDT infrastructure in five of the most populated cities of the country. Plans include incorporating TDT content in training and examination of residents specializing in pulmonology and psychiatry, as well as in the general education at faculties of medicine.

By the end of 2016, the group intends to have four additional clinics established under pulmonology and psychiatry services in each of the five cities. The group also intends to address strengthening research in the area of TDT, holding sessions as part of national conference to reinforce knowledge and share progress, and advocating for TDT through media engagement.

In Tunisia, the organizing committee took advantage of the event to invite decision makers at the Ministry to attend part of the workshop and hear about the barriers facing tobacco control and TDT in Tunisia.

The participants set plans to train on TDT at their workplaces, hold stand-alone training workshops to engage a wider audience, and incorporate TDT in the training of residents as they specialize.

The participants also set plans to address system-specific barriers including bringing back TDT medications into the Tunisian market, holding awareness sessions to build interest and belief in TDT, and enforcing protection from exposure to secondhand smoke at the National Cancer Institute as a stepping stone towards better enforcement of smokefree laws in Tunisia.

The workshop concluded with establishing  a committee with representatives from primary care, pulmonology, oncology, occupational health, and communication to follow up on next steps.