Background: Brief intervention by a health professional can substantially increase smoking cessation rates among patients. However, few studies have collected information on tobacco use and training to provide cessation counseling among health professional students.
Objective: To examine tobacco use prevalence and tobacco cessation training among students pursuing advanced degrees in health professions.
Methods: The Global Health Professions Student Survey (GHPSS) has been conducted among 3rd year students attending dental, medical, nursing, and pharmacy schools. The GHPSS was conducted in schools during regular lectures and class sessions. GHPSS follows an anonymous, self-administered format for data collection.
Results: The GHPSS was completed by at least one of the four target disciplines in 31 countries between 2005 and 2007 for a total of 80 survey sites. In 47 of the 80 sites, over 20% of the students currently smoked cigarettes; and in 29 of 77 sites, over 10% of the students currently used other tobacco products. GHPSS data showed that the majority of health professional students recognized that they are role models in society, believed that they should receive training on counseling patients to quit using tobacco, but in 73 of 80 sites less than 40% of the students reported they received such training.
Conclusions: Health professional schools, public health organizations, and education officials should discourage tobacco use among health professionals and work together to design and implement programs that train all health professionals in effective cessation-counseling techniques. If the goal of the tobacco control community is to reduce substantially the use of tobacco products, then resources should be invested in improving the quality of education of health professionals with respect to tobacco control.
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