In Bangladesh, every year more than 350,000 people are affected by Tuberculosis (TB), and more than 70,000 people die of this disease. 20% of the deaths are attributed to tobacco. These deaths can easily be avoided by collecting information and providing counseling on tobacco use among TB patients by the TB care providers. The information was revealed in a study conducted by ARK Foundation.
A dissemination seminar titled ‘Tobacco cessation within TB Programme’ was organized at a hotel in the capital on Sunday, October 6, 2019. Md. Saidur Rahman, Additional Secretary (World Health) of the Health Services Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, was the chief guest of the event while Prof. Dr Shamiul Islam, Line Director, National Tuberculosis Control Program and Prof. Dr Shah Monir Hossain were the special guests. The findings of the study were presented by the Executive Director of ARK Foundation, Dr Rumana Huque.This study, funded by the European Union, further revealed that 18% of the TB patients are smokers and at least one in every three male patients smokes. The risk of death among TB patients who are smokers increases two-fold. A brief counseling session provided by the healthcare provider can play a vital role in helping patients quit smoking. This kind of support for tobacco cessation can annually help 14,000 TB patients to quit tobacco.
ARK foundation has trained healthcare providers of 4 districts, to hone their skills necessary for counseling patients for tobacco cessation. Later, 28% of the TB patients and 40% of males were identified as smokers. The trained healthcare workers were successful in providing counseling and supporting these patients to quit smoking. This proves that providing support through a brief counseling session is effective and feasible on a large scale. Through the provision of straightforward simple training to the healthcare providers, it is possible to help patients quit tobacco, and this will cost the government only 65 BDT per month.
In his speech, Chief Guest Md. Saidur Rahman mentioned, “Quitting tobacco use must be made mandatory for those who attended the DOTS centre for treatment. It is possible to help patients quit tobacco during their treatment period of six months. Today, from here, we should make a decision that we will begin a support programme to help TB patients stop smoking and quit tobacco.” He added, “All TB patients should be free from tobacco use. This programme must be made compulsory in all the hospitals providing treatment for TB.”
The Line Director of the National TB Control Programme, Dr Shamiul Islam stated, “The government has committed to making the country TB free by 2035 and tobacco-free by 2040. For this commitment to be fulfilled, integrating tobacco control within TB treatment, and incorporating information on tobacco use, and helping patients to quit tobacco are extremely important. For this reason, it is necessary to enhance the skills of healthcare providers and maintain their professional safety.”
Well, the integration of this arrangement is not only possible for TB patients but in other sectors of health as well. As a consequence, this will not only help in the development of evidence-based policies and management to control the disease, but it’ll also help to improve the condition of the patients and reduce the death rate.
The seminar was also attended by honourable former joint secretary Md. Ruhul Kuddus, Dr Golam Mohiuddin Faruque from the Cancer Society, Dr Sohel Reza Chowdhury from the National Heart Foundation, Syedul Mahbubul Alam, Technical Advisor of The Union, and renowned clinician Dr M. S. Choudhury Lelin.