The healthcare providers, particularly the young nursing and medical students can potentially strengthen tobacco control in all healthcare facilities. This was the key thought expressed at the 'Safe Saturday' seminar held in Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU), organized by its Tobacco Cessation Centre. People tend to indulge more in risk-taking behaviour on a Saturday and health-seeking behaviour is minimal - that is why the Surgeons of CSMMU have taken an initiative to raise awareness and target different audiences for a 'safe saturday.'
The importance of integrating tobacco cessation with the existing healthcare services was emphasized by Professor (Dr) Rama Kant, Head of the Department of Surgery at CSMMU and a World Health Organization (WHO) Director General's Awardee (2005). He firmly believes that we can use the existing vast healthcare network of our country in tobacco control, simply by better management and utilization of the existing healthcare staff, at no extra cost. Involvement of health care workers is a major tool in curbing the tobacco epidemic.
The health professionals need to have adequate knowledge and a proper attitude in order to put the plan into practice. Proper training (by way of lectures and audio visual programmes) of the doctors, paramedics, nurses and all others involved in patient care is very essential. This should be coupled with a proper attitude. Lack of time is often cited as an excuse. But "even a cursory remark by the doctor like – 'do you take tobacco?' may have a tremendous cessation outcome" says Dr Vinod Jain, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery at CSMMU. A study has revealed that smoking cessation interventions during physician visits were associated with increased patient satisfaction. Patients are bound to feel that the doctor cares for them. Even one minute spent with the patient, results in an abstinence rate of 11% which increases to 17.5% if contact time is 3 minutes.
"Tobacco kills 5.4 million people around the world each year. Tobacco is a risk factor in six of the eight leading causes of death worldwide" said Alejandra Ellison Barney, Wellesley College, USA. The death toll is projected to rise to eight million a year by 2030, with 80 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries, added Alejandra. If current trends are not reversed, tobacco will claim one billion lives this century, said she.
The healthcare professionals were also briefed on the coming World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on 31 May 2009. This year the theme for WNTD 2009 is "Tobacco Health Warnings." Tobacco health warnings appear on packs of cigarettes and are among the strongest defences against the global epidemic of tobacco. WHO particularly approves of tobacco health warnings that contain both pictures and words because they are the most effective at convincing people to quit. Such pictorial warnings appear in more than a dozen countries.
- Bobby Ramakant