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AUA SPH Draws Attention to Link Between Smoking and TB

YEREVAN, Armenia – On May 31, 2019, the Turpanjian School of Public Health (SPH) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) joined the world in celebrating the annual World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) which highlights the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocates for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. This year the World No Tobacco Day focused on lung health, offering a platform for the public health community to raise awareness of the devastating effects that smoking has on the health of people, communities, and the public in general.

It is well documented that several social and behavioral factors contribute to tuberculosis (TB) transmission and negatively affect treatment outcomes. Many studies indicate that smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are associated with TB infection, disease, recurrence, and mortality. People who continue to smoke while undergoing TB treatment reduce their chances for optimal treatment outcomes. According to a 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) survey, every fourth Armenian aged 18-69 (27.9%), including every second male, is a smoker. This poses a significant challenge to addressing TB in Armenia, which has one of the highest smoking rates in Europe. According to research findings, smoking prevalence among TB patients in Armenia is higher than in the general population (75.4%). The study also found that the proportion of TB recurrence among smokers was significantly higher at 24.4% compared to non-smokers at 13.8%. People who are infected with TB should consult their doctor about behavior changes that will boost treatment success and minimize the risk of transmitting the disease.

On the occasion of the WNTD, AUA’s SPH prepared a social advertisement to highlight the link between smoking and lung health, particularly TB. It emphasizes the urgent need for joint efforts to combat the deadly pairing of TB and smoking, as well as the important role of health professionals in this effort. This social advertisement was developed in the frame of the “Institutionalization of Patient-Centered Tuberculosis Treatment in Armenia” program, implemented by the Turpanjian School of Public Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia (RA) and the National Tuberculosis Control Center (NTCC) by funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

SPH researchers also joined the local public health community during the flash mob on Northern Avenue, organized jointly by the WHO Armenia Country Office, the RA Ministry of Health, the National Institute of Health, and Be Informed NGO.

Additionally, Dr. Arusyak Harutyunyan, senior researcher and faculty member at AUA SPH, was invited to Yerkir Media’s and Armenia TV’s morning programs to talk about this year’s WNTD theme and to reflect on the relevant activities that are currently carried out by SPH. She also introduced the social advertisement which was featured during the morning program.

As Dr. Harutyunyan explained: “Our public seems quite aware of the harm that smoking may cause to our respiratory system in general, however, people are not well informed on the damage that smoking may pose to infectious diseases, such as TB. This video targets a specific audience, emphasizing how important it is to lead a smoke-free lifestyle when combatting TB.”

Dr. Harutyunyan was also invited to a press conference in the National Institutes of Health where she, along with other speakers from the National Institutes of Health, talked about the current tobacco control efforts for implementation of the recommendations put forth by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The AUA Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian School of Public Health works actively to improve population health and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.

Media Coverage:

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