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Heart Heroes

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Dr Stella Bialous

Associate Professor in Residence, Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco


“I began my nursing career more than 30 years ago in Brazil, working initially in medical-surgery floors and eventually moving into cancer prevention. This was where my tobacco knowledge began, and from here I developed a strong interest in smoking cessation and how nurses could take a more holistic approach with their patients to this end. A few years later I realized that nurses, if properly mobilized, could be a “formidable” opponent of the tobacco industry (as stated in an formerly secret industry document).


This was the start of a lifelong effort to mobilise nurses to become more engaged with their patients and to try to understand – and remove – some of the barriers preventing this. Lack of time is often cited as a reason, but to me, talking about smoking cessation is an integral part of nursing, not an add-on. We don’t say ‘take an extra minute to take this patient’s blood pressure’ and I feel that discussing smoking should be as fundamental as the other core duties we perform as nurses…”


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Dr Regina Dalmau

President of the CNPT (Comité Nacional para la Prevención del Tabaquismo)


“I’m passionate about the fight against tobacco, and through my organisation I work to try to improve the regulations in this industry. I’m an active participant in the debate on social media, which sometimes even means suffering online attacks due to my strong position. For me, it’s all about getting the message out as far and wide as possible – some of my letters have been published on one of Spain’s most-read newspapers.


As a cardiologist, I became interested in the association with tobacco and cardiovascular disease prevention. Interestingly – and unfortunately – there is very little interest in tobacco consultation among doctors in Spain, it is not a subject that’s particularly attractive to cardiologists…”


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Dr Enrique Melgarejo

Past- President Colombian Society of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery


“Tobacco is a huge problem in Colombia. Unfortunately, our youth are smoking more and more, and there is now more nicotine in cigarettes.


I’m an ex-smoker myself – I used to smoke two packs a day – and decided to quit 20 years ago for the sake of my heart. It was a very hard challenge! In my role as President of the Colombian Society of Cardiology, I worked on initiatives aimed at promoting and disseminating information on smoking and cardiovascular risk for the Colombian population jointly with the Colombian Health Ministry and other health organizations…”


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Prof Pamela Naidoo

CEO Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa


“Early on in my career I realised that working with patients on a one-to-one basis didn’t deal with the wider issues – which is when I took the decision to study public health and start working in this field to make a bigger impact on society and population health.


Over the past 15 years my focus has been on NCDs, and specifically on CVD in the past five years. In my current role as CEO of Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa and President of the African Heart Network, I am a passionate advocate of reducing the morbidity and mortality rates due to heart disease and stroke. One of the things I am pushing for is zero tolerance of tobacco smoking, and I’m working with the South African government and other relevant stakeholders to achieve this, given that tobacco smoking is one of the strongest risk factors for CVDs…”


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Dr Mike Omeri, OFR

Former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigeria, and Founder of Timbuktoo Media Solutions


“During my time as Director General of the National Orientation Agency, (NOA), I worked with a number of public-spirited groups and NGOs, such as the Association of Public Health Workers and the NOA, to mount various campaigns against smoking in public places. Indeed, my work gave me the opportunity to act within very large communities, engaging the public on the importance of behaviour modification for health purposes nationwide.


Through our private company, Timbuktoo Media Solutions, which was established six years ago and managed by my dear wife two years before I left active government service, I’ve continued campaigning on healthy hearts, bringing people together from all walks of life to discuss critical health issues. I’m lucky that my previous work in government has given me access to influential, high-profile people in Nigeria to be part of this work…”


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