Envisioning the Future
Health Professionals Discuss Future of Tobacco-Cessation
Programs at Global Tobacco Control Summit
 
BY BONITA JOYNER SHIELDS, an assistant editor of Adventist Review
 
ore than 100health professionals and other tobacco control leaders from around the world participated in the Global Tobacco Control Summit, held at Sligo Adventist church and Washington Adventist Hospital from July 14-16, 2006. This marks the first international event of its kind to be held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was scheduled to correspond with the Thirteenth World Conference on Tobacco or Health convening in Washington, D.C.
 
The health summit was sponsored by the North American Division, the General Conference, Loma Linda University, Adventist Healthcare, Columbia Union College, and Sligo Adventist church. Initial funding came through Versacare, a non-profit humanitarian foundation headquartered in Corona, California.
 
SUMMIT PRESENTERS: Presenters for the Global Tobacco Control Summit held at Sligo Adventist church and Washington Adventist Hospital included Adventist health professionals from France, Portugal, Australia, Cambodia, and the United States. [Photo by Bonita Shields] 
Presenters for this global event included Adventist health professionals from France, Portugal, Australia, Cambodia, as well as the United States.
 
One goal of the summit was to review the historical events leading from the early Adventist temperance movement of the 1870s to where we are today. “But we’re not here to focus on where we’ve been, but where we can be in the future” said Harley Stanton, a scientist involved in the Tobacco Free Initiative in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific.
 
Presentation topics included “Impact of Tobacco Use on Families,” “Meeting the Twenty-first Century Tobacco Epidemic for Pastors and Leaders,” and “Adventist Institutions Respond to the Tobacco Epidemic.”
 
According to Dr. Alfred Munzer, director of Pulmonary Medicine at Washington Adventist Hospital, there are 2.5 billion smokers worldwide.
 
“One third of all heart attacks and strokes are due to tobacco use. Eighty to 90 percent of all lung cancers are the result of tobacco use,” notes Dr. John Hodgkin, a pulmonologist at St. Helena Center for Health in California.
 
HIV and AIDS, and tobacco use rank close as two globally challenging diseases. Statistics indicate that tobacco kills almost 5 million people each year. If current trends continue, it is projected to kill 10 million people a year by 2020, with 70 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries.1 In an attempt to meet this challenge, in May 2003 member countries of WHO adopted a historic tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The Framework Convention Alliance, made up of more than 250 organizations representing 90 countries, was created to implement the FCTC. Signature on this document shows a desire to see the treaty go forward; ratification acknowledges commitment. At the time of this writing, more than 168 countries have signed the treaty; 134 countries have ratified it.2 The United States has not ratified it.
 
“More than 430,000 Americans die of tobacco use each year,” said Steven Gallegos, community advocate for Glendale Hospital in California. “If the names of those killed by tobacco were to be placed on a national monument, it would be equal to building seven Vietnam Memorial walls every year.”
 
Jim Cress, Ministerial director of the General Conference, visualizes pastors playing a key role in fighting this epidemic. “I see it as a joint venture between health ministries and pastors for the ultimate purpose of evangelism,” he said.
 
Some participants at the summit expressed frustration at the lack of training Adventist pastors receive in the seminary regarding health issues.
 
 
COFOUNDER: Cofounder of the Adventist Church’s smoking-cessation program, Dr. Wayne McFarland (right), was interviewed at the global summit event by Sligo church associate pastor Kermit Netteberg. [Photo by Bonita Shields] 
“Our seminary students should receive training in basic health principles, such as anatomy, physiology, as well as in understanding evidence-based science,” said Dr. Allan Handysides, director of the Health Ministries Department of the General Conference.
 
Currently, seminary students are not required to take a health course.
 
One way that the Adventist Church is seeking to meet the twenty-first century tobacco epidemic is to continue to offer smoking-cessation programs. Historically, these programs were called Five-day Plans to Stop Smoking; later other smoking cessation programs called Breathe Free and Quit Now3 were developed.
 
The cofounder of the smoking-cessation program, Dr. Wayne McFarland, is now more than 90 years old and was present at the global summit. Sligo church associate pastor Kermit Netteberg interviewed him on Sabbath morning concerning his role in developing tobacco control programs. He was also honored for his pioneering work with a banquet held Saturday evening. McFarland’s work has been recognized by many prominent organizations, including WHO.
 
Another participant in the summit, Inter-American Division Health Ministries director Dr. Elie Honore, gave several suggestions on how churches can most effectively make an impact. One is for pastors and their congregations to learn as much as they can about dependency/addiction. They also must see themselves as part of their community and network with other entities, she said.
 
“No ministry exists for itself,” said Honore. “We are all part of a whole. We don’t compete. We focus on the needs of the person, not the ministry.”
 
Susan Armstrong, a registered nurse of the Pacific Nicotine Dependence Center in Oregon, is one of the first in the United States to obtain the national credential for tobacco cessation counselors. She admonishes us as a church, “We need to be the leaders in this endeavor.”
 
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