Dr. Hadii Mamudu, associate professor for the department of health services management and policy in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The article, “The Progress of Tobacco Control Research in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Past 50 Years: A Systematic Review of the Design and Methods of the Studies,” highlights the scientific progress in tobacco control research, which is critically needed to inform preventive and control initiatives to stop or reverse the progression to higher stages of the tobacco epidemic model.
Additional authors include College of Public Health students Pooja Subedi, Ali E. Alamin, and Adekunle Oke; alumni Sreenivas P. Veeranki, Daniel Owusu, and Amy Poole; Dr. Lazarous Mbulo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Ogwell Ouma of the World Health Organization Regional (WHO) Office for Africa (AFR).
Over one billion of the world’s population are smokers, with increasing tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries. However, information about the methodology of studies on tobacco control is limited. The Sub-Saharan Africa region of the world consists of 47 countries in the African continent, including large and highly populated ones such as Nigeria and South Africa, and small countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Mauritius, and Togo. In terms of tobacco control, these countries have varied experiences and different levels of advancement, with countries such as South Africa having highly-advanced tobacco control programs and others such as Malawi having very limited progress.
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the literature to examine and evaluate the methodological designs of published tobacco research in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past 50 years. Overall, 447 peer-reviewed studies were retrieved for this study, with the first publication occurring in 1968. The researchers concluded that although tobacco control research involving Sub-Saharan Africa continues to grow, the region is still a “research desert”. However, the number of studies published yearly has continued to increase, particularly after the adoption of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the international treaty on tobacco that was negotiated under the auspices of the WHO.
This review found that, while the WHO FCTC may have spurred tobacco control research in Sub-Saharan Africa, the studies are primarily cross-sectional in nature with reliance on survey data. Consideration should be given to more rigorous, robust, and high-quality studies such as randomized controlled trials (RCTs), longitudinal, and cohort studies as they are critically needed for the region. Additionally, more qualitative and mixed-methods research is need as these studies provide in-depth information for research on a subject-matter where the region seems to be in a nascent stage. Access to this article is available from PubMed.
[Photo: Dr. Hadii Mamudu]