Poor Pakistani women unaware of smoking-related health effects

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Most women living in urban slums in Pakistan are aware that smoking harms women’s and children’s health, however, a new study reports that few of these women knew about specific smoking-related health effects.

Around one-third of women in the study knew that smoking can cause lung disease, but only seven percent knew that smoking could lead to heart disease. Few knew that smoking could lead to female-related health effects such as: low birth weight (seven percent); congenital abnormalities (five percent); pregnancy loss, still birth and preterm labor (less than one percent); and infertility and osteoporosis (zero percent). Only 20 percent understood the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on their children.

The study also found that the women’s limited health knowledge was largely due to illiteracy and lower levels of education.

“Understanding and attitudes needs to be improved by increasing health awareness and education of women in these urban communities with special emphasis on the effects of smoking on women’s health,” the study concluded.

1. Bhanji S, Andrades M, Taj F, Khuwaja AK. Factors related to knowledge and perception of women about smoking: a cross sectional study from a developing country. BMC Women’s Health 2011; 11: 16 (open access)

Anti-smoking images, multimedia most effective among Pakistani youth

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Anti-smoking graphic images and multimedia depictions are most effective at getting teens to abstain from smoking and using tobacco, according to a study of high school students in Pakistan.

The students in the study perceived a picture of oral cavity cancer, videos of a cancer patient using an electronic voice box and a patient on a ventilator to be the most effective anti-smoking messages. Messages about addiction, harming others through passive smoking and impact of smoking on disposable incomes were perceived to be less effective.

“These aids, in the form of health warnings, health promotion campaigns and material in school curricula, may be useful as effective tobacco control modalities in developing countries with young populations,” the study concluded.

1. Zaidi SMA, Bikak AL, Shaheryar A, et al. Perceptions of anti-smoking messages amongst high school students in Pakistan. BMC Public Health 2011; 11: 117 (open access)

Urban-rural inequities in knowledge of tuberculosis in Pakistan

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Knowledge of tuberculosis (TB) is poor especially in rural areas of Pakistan, according to a study conducted in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The study also found that people living in urban areas were more likely to seek treatment at a health facility, compared to rural folk. TB is re-emerging as a global public health problem and a better understanding of the urban and rural communities’ perception of the disease is needed to implement better prevention and control.

Knowledge regarding symptoms, transmission, prevention, duration of standard treatment and DOTS treatment was significantly higher in urban areas. Although more than 80 percent of both urban and rural people in the study were aware of the correct treatment for TB, less than half knew of the availability of the diagnostic facility and treatment free of cost.

People in the urban areas were more likely to feel ashamed and embarrassed being a TB patient; however, they seem to be supportive in case their family member suffered from TB. Nearly half of the study respondents, irrespective of the area of residence, believed that the community rejects TB patients.

Television (urban 80 percent, rural 68 percent) and health workers (urban 31 percent, rural 41 percent) were the main sources for people to acquire TB-related information.

“Television can be recommended as a suitable medium for future campaigns provided that information should be tailored according to the needs of all people, and health workers can be involved in this regard especially in the rural areas,” the study suggested.

1. Mushtaq MU, Shahid U, Abdullah HM, et al. Urban-rural inequities in knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding tuberculosis in two districts of Pakistan’s Punjab province. International Journal for Equity in Health 2011; 10: 8. (open access)