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News Article

IMSS Embraces E-Health In Fight Against Smoking

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 08/19/2021 - 13:43

IMSS just launched “Decídetexto,” an e-health research project to help users quit smoking. Through the program, users will receive an individualized smoking cessation texting plan through a mobile tablet-based application, which will also collect tobacco-related information from participants.

Smoking is one of Mexico’s largest problems and it is considered a public health matter as the country has about 15 million active smokers. On average 9.2 percent of women and 28.4 percent of men smoke in Mexico and the habit starts at an early age, with a growing number of teenagers who begin smoking at about 13 years of age. Per year, Mexico registers 51,000 smoking- related deaths, which is 141 deaths per day. The early age at which children are taking up smoking makes it a global health concern.

Smoking is the root of many preventable health problems that include cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer, as it can quickly become an addition because of its nicotine content. Nicotine is a very addictive chemical, so smoking addiction is characterized by the need to consume more and more tobacco as well as physical and emotional discomfort when not smoking (abstinence). Tobacco addiction is a chronic disease with frequent relapses that make it difficult to suspend its use despite the damage it causes to health and, like all addictions, it does not respect age, sex, social status or religion.

According to the American Cancer Society, about two out of three smokers have stated a desire to quit and about half try to quit each year, but few succeed without help. This is because they not only become physically dependent on nicotine, but also mentally as it affects behavior, mood and emotions.

Digital health platforms can be an appropriate tool to fight the addiction symptoms of smoking. Digital health, or e-health, involves tools and services that use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and management of health-related issues and to monitor and manage lifestyle-habits. E-health can improve access to care and the quality of that care, as well as increase the overall efficiency of the health sector. 

IMSS e-health approach is based on text messages. Its program will also include 12 weeks of behavioral counseling that includes educational information, behavioral strategies, motivational messages and nicotine replacement therapy (such as patches) to support each patient. This program is aimed at adults who smoke at least three days a week, are interested in quitting, live in Cuernavaca, Morelos, and know how to send and receive text messages.

The data collected from the project will be kept strictly confidential and protected by the Federal Law on Protection of Personal Data Held by Private Parties, according to IMSS. It will be used only by the project's research team (the National Institute of Public Health, the University of Rochester and the Mexican Institute of Social Security) and will not be available for any other purpose. To ensure the confidentiality of the data, participants will be identified with a number and not with their name. The results of this study will be published and presented in a way that does not identify participants.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Ministry of Health, European Commission
Photo by:   Lê Tit on Unsplash
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst