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Create smoke-free milieu, save lives: Experts

INTERNATIONAL experts on health and healthy lifestyle called for a new approach by family physicians to help smokers quit the habit. Doctors from across the region, who gathered at a major anti-smoking workshop in Dubai, made the call as part of their support for the goals outlined on World No Tobacco Day.

The workshop was designed to discuss the skills and approaches necessary to help patients quit, as well as new advances in treating nicotine addiction.

The health experts identified family doctors as the key focal point for the effort to reduce the health impact of smoking in the Middle East. Physicians have traditionally played a clinical role in Arab societies ­ diagnosing and treating patients who come to them with illnesses but health authorities believe that a greater emphasis on counselling could have a major and immediate impact.

Institutes represented at the event include the Sheikh Zayed Military Hospital, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Health Authority of Abu Dhabi, Ministry of Health, Dubai Health Authorities, Dubai Municipality, National Institute for Rehabilitation, Al Ain Hospital, Hamad Hospital (Qatar), Al Amiri Hospital (Kuwait) and a number of private hospitals from across the region.

Mitchell Nides, PhD, president of Los Angeles Clinical Trials, said that the role of the doctor is changing globally as lifestyle issues like smoking become the major epidemics of the age, with tobacco addiction alone responsible for 5.4 million deaths a year.

"Doctors traditionally played a clinical role in treating people who came to them with specific illnesses.

However, many of the major threats to health in the 21st century are lifestyle-based, created by people's behaviours and attitudes. By intervening and helping patients to quit smoking, doctors could reduce the incidence of major diseases like cancer and heart diseases," he said.

The increased focus on intervention and counselling has a number of elements. At the workshop, the physicians examined the importance of social support for tobacco cessation. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the habits of more than 12,000 people over a 30 year period and concluded that social relationships had a crucial role in deciding whether someone started smoking and whether they quit.

In addition, a counselling-based approach can be reinforced with the use of a range of advanced medical treatments that make it easier for people to quit.

Dr Ahmed Yousif Ali of the National Rehabilitation Centre, Abu Dhabi, said, "We are seeing measurable results in patients by using an intensive approach that will enable them to quit smoking. It is clear from the discussion at the workshop that all agencies are determined to work together to create a smoke-free environment and save lives."

Health authorities across the region recently outlined key goals for reducing tobacco consumption on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, organised by the World Health Organisation May 31.

Source: Gulf Today

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