GIS - 28 October 2014: The development of a strong and comprehensive mTobacco Cessation programme for Mauritius will be the focus of a three-day technical workshop which opened this morning at Le Meridien Hotel at Pointe aux Piments. The workshop is organised jointly by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life.
The mTobacco Cessation programme forms part of the wider mHealth project which is an innovative concept spearheaded by the WHO using mobile telecommunications technology to create awareness on non-communicable diseases. In the first instance, the mHealth programme will focus on tobacco cessation and subsequently will be extended to address other Non-Communicable diseases, in particular diabetes.
The objectives of the workshop are namely to introduce the “Be Healthy Be Mobile” initiative and the mTobacco programme; involve various players in the implementation of the programme; review the strategy to fund the programme; refine the monitoring and evaluation framework and finalise programme timeline.
Participants comprise stakeholders from the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Mauritius Institute of Health, Non-governmental organisations dealing with tobacco, and other related regulatory authorities. Resource persons comprising Mr Edouard d’Espaignet and Mrs Liliane Chamas from WHO Geneva; Mr Benoit Varenne from WHO AFRO and Mr Getachew Sahlu, ITU representative, are in Mauritius in order to kick start the project.
In his address the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Lormus Bundhoo, recalled that the mHealth programme is consistent with the Health Literacy Framework and the E-health project that the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life is presently in the process of developing. There is sufficient evidence to prove the effectiveness of using mobile technology to promote health, he said.
“Mauritius has known a rapid development of Information Communication Technology and the Health sector can definitely benefit from it for health promotion. There is great need to shift from our traditional way of communication to innovative use of modern technology in order to successfully reach different segments of the population”, he pointed out.
According to Mr Bundhoo Mauritius is considered as a model country for its strong tobacco control policies, including the provision of tobacco cessation services to smokers who want to quit. WHO wants Mauritius to become a ‘champion’ in the region for mTobacco Cessation, he said.
He also made mention of the psychosocial and behavioural impact of key policies implemented in 2009 in Mauritius in the context of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Project, carried out by the University of Waterloo in collaboration with the Mauritius Institute of Health, in which several findings have been highlighted. Majority of smokers in Mauritius have negative views on smoking and they want to quit; 87% of smokers regretted taking up smoking; there is great support in favour of stronger tobacco control measures from both smokers and non-smokers; and the promotion of public awareness on dangers of smoking and benefits of cessation has been effective in Mauritius.
Since 2009, several tobacco control measures have been put in place, namely the coming into force of a new FCTC-compliant tobacco regulations which comprise the ban of smoking in public places, ban of sales to and by minors, ban of advertising, promotion and sponsorship, yearly tax increase on tobacco products, implementation of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages.
A smoking cessation clinic was set up in 2008 on a pilot basis at the Odette Leal Community Health Centre in Beau Bassin. Subsequently, in 2011 the smoking cessation service was extended to six other health points in the five health regions. Moreover, since May 2011, a toll free telephone information line has become operational to give information on tobacco to the public. A tobacco cessation clinic is also available in Rodrigues.
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