Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Addressing the tobacco menace in India: Innovative programme empowers teachers to lead the change

Mumbai, 24 January 2024: In a country where tobacco-related deaths claim the lives of 3,700 individuals daily, Maharashtra grapples with a staggering 27% of its population affected by the adverse effects of tobacco consumption. Recognizing the critical situation in the state, an innovative initiative has emerged, positioning teachers as key influencers in spearheading tobacco control efforts within schools.

The Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health in Navi Mumbai, in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH)/Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in the USA, joined forces with the Bihar Department of Education (DOE) to develop and test the ground breaking Tobacco-Free Teachers, Tobacco-Free Society (TFT-TFS) programme. This marks the world's first tobacco intervention centered around educators.

Tobacco-Free Teachers, Tobacco-Free Society (TFT-TFS) is an evidence-based intervention programme designed to promote tobacco cessation among teachers and instil robust tobacco control policies within schools in Bihar. Executed during 2009-2011 in select government schools, the programme achieved remarkable success, with 50% of teacher’s successfully quitting tobacco, and 92% of schools implementing a Tobacco-Free School policy.

In Maharashtra, the pervasive menace of tobacco has cast a dark shadow over the health of its population, with approximately 27% grappling with the adverse effects of tobacco consumption. The toll of this detrimental habit is staggering, contributing to a multitude of health issues that affect individuals across the state. From the bustling streets of Mumbai to the serene landscapes of Pune, tobacco-related deaths claim an alarming number of lives daily, the adverse impact is not confined solely to mortality but extends to a myriad of health complications, including respiratory disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and various forms of cancer. The pressing need to address this public health crisis has given rise to innovative initiatives, such as the Tobacco-Free Teachers, Tobacco-Free Society programme, recognizing the urgency to empower communities, educators, and individuals in Maharashtra to combat the devastating consequences of tobacco use.

"In empowering teachers as champions of change against tobacco, we illuminate a path to a healthier, tobacco-free future for our communities. The Tobacco-Free Teachers, Tobacco-Free Society program stands as a testament to the transformative power of education and collaboration in the fight against a pervasive health menace," said Dr. Prakash Gupta, Director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health. Programme

Implementation Model

Following the success in Bihar, a recent study confirmed the feasibility of large-scale dissemination. The project team subsequently developed a self-help manual for headmasters and teachers, derived from the evidence-based programme. This manual aims to guide school leaders in overcoming tobacco use and, in turn, fostering tobacco-free environments within schools.

Key components of the self-help manual:

    1. TFT-TFS programme material:

        ◦ Empowering principals through self-implementation.

        ◦ Six programme themes covering teacher role models, health effects of tobacco, motivation to quit, skills to quit, dealing with withdrawal, and maintenance and celebration.

    2. Support in tobacco cessation/prevention:

        ◦ Guidance for headmasters/teachers in understanding addiction.

        ◦ Practical advice and government-provided toll-free contact number (1800-11-2356) for assistance.

    3. Tobacco-free school policies:

        ◦ Guidance for mandatory implementation through study materials and group discussions.

    4. Posters and wall paintings:

        ◦ Monthly themed visuals to facilitate discussions and promote a tobacco-free school environment.

Implementation timetable

The manual outlines a timetable for the TFT-TFS programme, aiming to make educational institutions tobacco-free. It also promotes tobacco control in communities, providing knowledge about the health effects of tobacco through practical examples and stories, suggesting alternative methods to overcome cravings.

“This manual released today provides an excellent opportunity to educators of Maharashtra to implement TFT-TFS program in their schools to make their schools and Maharashtra tobacco free and healthy,” said Dr. Mangesh Pednekar, Director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, Navi-Mumbai, Maharashtra.

About Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health

For nearly two decades, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health has been dedicated to advancing public health through innovative science and evidence-based research. Conducting quality research in the public health domain, the institute translates its outcomes for the benefit of society.

To access the self-help manual, click on the following link: -

To access the Quit booklet, click on the following link: -

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