On June 28, 2007, more than 100 physicians, nurses and other health professionals from Armenia and abroad, including the Diaspora, gathered together at the Marriott Hotel Armenia to discuss the role of health professionals in fighting the tobacco epidemic in Armenia during the Workshop, entitled “Health Professionals For Tobacco Free Armenia.” The Armenian Public Health Alliance (union between the American University of Armenia, Armenian Public Health Union and Armenian Public Health Association) organized this event with support from the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation Armenia and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health as part of the 2nd International Medical Congress of Armenia.
Without doubt, the Workshop was a major breakthrough in strengthening the role of health professionals in curbing the epidemic of smoking in Armenia. As in many Eastern European countries, Armenian doctors smoke as much as the public at large. The aim of this important meeting was calling on health professionals for a greater role and responsibility in helping smokers to quit.
Invited keynote speakers were Dr. Haroutune Armenian, Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and President of the American University of Armenia, and Dr. Gregory Connolly, Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Armenian gave an overview of the milestone studies that demonstrated health risks of smoking. He also shared a recent finding, a poetry piece of a multi-talented Armenian religious leader-patriarch and poet Tootoonji who wrote on health hazards of tootoon (tobacco) in the17th century. Dr. Connolly presented smoking as an addiction and shared his inspiring experience of involving doctors in tobacco control in the state of Massachusetts, USA.
Integration of tobacco control in the medical training curricula was another important theme of the Workshop. Representatives of leading institutions in the sphere of education and continuing training of physicians and nurses presented their views and efforts toward integrating the basics of tobacco control into medical and nursing curricula. During the discussion session participants noted a critical lack of information on contemporary treatments of tobacco dependence and stressed the need for appropriate training materials and literature. “We attempted to partially fill the existing information gap by translating the Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians on Treating Tobacco Use And Dependence”, said Dr. Narine Movsisyan, Project Manager at the Center for Health Services Research and Development and the Director of the Tobacco Control Policy project of the Armenian Public Health Alliance. “However, this is just a tiny step, the issue is complex and long-term programming is needed to improve tobacco-related attitudes, knowledge and practices of health professionals in Armenia”.
Each year, more than 2,000 Armenian smokers become victims of the deadly addiction. This is an enormous burden for a country with only 3m in population. Two out of three men in Armenia are tobacco addicts. This grim statistics cannot be improved without vital support from the medical community. Workshop participants (including physicians and nurses from regions of Armenia and Artsakh) expressed interest in the topic and further training opportunities. Workshop participants decided to establish a working group for integration of tobacco control in the medical/nursing training curricula. Workshop organizers agreed this meeting was a major step forward in the movement for a Tobacco Free Armenia.