Winter 2005     Vol. 13, Issue 2


Program to Motivate, Train Russian Physicians for Smoking Cessation Reports Progress, But Uphill Battle Continues…

Dr. Vladimir Levshin of the Russian Cancer Research Center and physicians engaged in a smoking-cessation workshop in Moscow.

Smoking in Russia is the norm rather than the exception; and high smoking prevalence among Russian physicians isn’t helping. In fact, this poor role modeling continues to be one of the main barriers to decreasing smoking prevalence among the general population.

That’s why the Russian Cancer Research Center (RCRC), with assistance from CECHE, the Moscow Public Health Department and the Moscow Medical Academy, developed a program to educate, motivate and train Russian physicians to champion smoking-cessation among their patients. Fighting a decidedly uphill battle, the comprehensive 18-month program, which includes the development, implementation and dissemination of surveys, seminars in smoking-cessation counseling and a course on tobacco-related health problems, control measures and dependence treatment, has been effecting change little by little since late 2003.

This year, the number of smokers who visited the RCRC-based smoking-cessation service following physicians' recommendations increased more than twofold. This encouraging upswing indicates that the quantity of knowledgeable and skilled tobacco-control clinicians has expanded in the Moscow area – and the program is making some headway in meeting its goals.

To date, a total of 1,700 health professionals have participated in 45 educational sessions conducted in 32 outpatient clinics and 10 hospitals in and around Moscow, and in the Nyzney Novgorod and Altay regions. Nine one-day training workshops have also been conducted in Moscow, and the Moscow and Altay regions; because of a lack of regional support, however, this number is less than originally planned.

On the publication front, approximately 800 copies of smoking-cessation guidelines for physicians, published in Russian this year, have been distributed via workshops and medical bookstores. In addition, a "Tobacco or Health" educational training course for post-graduate students devoted to treating tobacco use and dependence made its debut at the Moscow Medical Academy.

Going forward, a second cross-sectional survey of 500 physicians will be conducted using a self-administered questionnaire to elucidate personal smoking history, knowledge and practices concerning the provision of smoking-cessation counseling for patients. The results of this survey will be compared with the previously administered survey data.

Given the enormity of the Russian smoking situation, the scale of the RCRC program is admittedly small. But progress is what counts, and progress is being made. This program is just the beginning – additional resources, initiatives and persistence are key to effecting the widespread change and benefits required to reverse tobacco’s devastating national toll.

Vladimir Levshin, M.D., D.Sc.
Russian Cancer Research Center, Moscow

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