Eastern Mediterranean Summit on Tobacco Dependence Treatment: A successful first for strengthened momentum in the region

By Rasha Bader 

Under the patronage of HRH Princess Ghida Talal, the First Eastern Mediterranean (EMR) Summit on Tobacco Dependence Treatment (TDT) was held in Amman-Jordan during the period of November 5-6, 2017. The Summit came as the result of long-term collaboration between King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC), Global Bridges, the World Health Organization, and the Jordanian Thoracic Society. 

Despite evidence of the effectiveness and the shortage of TDT services in the EMR, governments and healthcare providers continue to underestimate the value of TDT services, and the region continues to lag behind other parts of the world on aspects of national support to TDT. Accordingly, the Summit aimed to shed light on TDT as a golden preventive intervention, provide guidance to help expand the availability of the service, and reinforce what has been achieved in the region over the past years.  

Bringing together more than 350 attendees from 13 countries, the Summit addressed several themes, including:  

  • Factors influencing the supply of and the demand for TDT services  
  • The role of TDT in managing and controlling non-communicable diseases, behavioral interventions and medications utilized in TDT  
  • Opportunities for TDT research in the region  

During the two-day summit, regional and global experts discussed success stories from the region, challenges that practitioners face and potential solutions, and global experiences that can add value to the progress in the region. 

Aiming for this to be the first in a series of summits in the region, the Cancer Control Office team at KHCC worked hard over a year to bring to light what attendees and speakers agreed to be an extraordinary “first” and an important step in advancing TDT and tobacco control in the region. Several countries have already expressed interest in hosting the next summit in two years. We are thankful to our speakers for their contribution and would like to share some of their testimonies. 

Dr. Judith Mackay, Senior Policy Advisor to World Health Organization: “The organization of this Summit – a ‘first’ for the region – by Dr. Hawari and his team was impeccable; the content of the programme was excellent; there was really important sharing of experience and information between the delegates; and everyone enjoyed it immensely. Particularly impressive were the number of countries in attendance, and hundreds of enthusiastic participants of all ages and stages. It is very heartening that the forward plan to emerge at the meeting is to hold such conferences every 2-3 years.”  

Dr. Richard Hurt, Founder and Emeritus Chair of Global Bridges: “Simply stated the Summit was an overwhelming success. The sheer number but more importantly the diversity of healthcare professionals in attendance from across the EMR was most impressive. Who could have dreamed 10 years ago that such a meeting would take place? Dr. Hawari and his Team are simply remarkable for having the wisdom, vision and organizational skills to make this happen. The EMR is blessed to have such leadership at this time of critical need for the provision of state of the art treatment for tobacco dependence. The energy created by the Summit was palpable.” 

Dr. J. Taylor Hays, Chair of Global Bridges Healthcare Alliance: “I was very pleased to see such a large and enthusiastic audience for the Summit with people from across the Middle East and North Africa. I am hopeful that the momentum from this meeting will result in greater collaboration across the EMR and effective tobacco control efforts in many countries.” 

Ms. Yolonda Richardson, Executive Vice President of Global Programs for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids: “Global momentum continues for tobacco control and advocates must remain vigilant, because we know that the tobacco industry will never desist from selling its deadly products around the world. This is particularly true in low- and middle-income countries, including the EMR, where the greatest growth of tobacco prevalence is projected. This is a key takeaway and action point from this Summit.” 

Dr. Maher Karam-Hage, Medical Director of the Tobacco Treatment Program at MD Anderson: “The summit was a success by all measures. It was well attended with enthusiastic and engaged attendees. The scientific rigor and knowledge of speakers was outstanding, the facility and logistics were elaborately prepared and adequate. It could not have been better, a wonderful way to accelerate the fight against tobacco in the EMR.” 

This post is also available in Arabic.