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WHO Unveils New AI Initiative to Help People Quit Smoking

Florence will use Artificial Intelligence, to help smokers develop personalized plans to quit tobacco, deliver cessation services to support them overcome both physical and mental addictions, while also dispelling myths around COVID-19 and smoking. Florence is available 24/7 via video stream or text.
Florence
The world’s first digital health worker is ready to help millions of people quit smoking and reduce the risk of being infected by COVID-19.  

Smokers are at higher risk of COVID-19 because they are constantly putting their hands to their mouths, and if infected, they are more likely to develop a severe case of the disease, according to Dr Ruediger Krech, the Director of WHO’s Department of Ethics and Social Determinants of Health.  

But research indicates that although around 60 per cent of tobacco users worldwide say they want to quit, only 30 per cent of them have access to the tools that can help them do so.

That the reason Florence, a computer-generated face of the Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco, is here; to help them.  

Florence will use Artificial Intelligence, to help smokers develop personalized plans to quit tobacco, deliver cessation services to support them overcome both physical and mental addictions, while also dispelling myths around COVID-19 and smoking. Florence is available 24/7 via video stream or text.  

She will specifically address smoking and its consequences - heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases - all of which are comorbidities with COVID-19. 

With Florence, smokers can engage with a digital health worker to develop a quit plan and rely on a trusted source anytime and anyplace, to help them feel confident to reach their quit goals. Initially available in English, Florence will, over time, be available in all six official UN languages.  

“The next-generation technology used by Florence will help the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users access the reliable information they need to quit tobacco - helping to protect them from a a potentially severe case of COVID-19 and many other diseases,” Dr Ruediger Krech said. He hopes that with Florence, more people will quit smoking.

Florence was created with technology developed by Soul Machines, a company based in the United States and New Zealand, with support from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The initiative will be launched initially in Jordan, which has some of the highest tobacco use rates in the world, with global roll-out scheduled over the coming months.  

Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, President for the International Union of Cancer Control said, “I am pleased that Jordan is part of this initiative, which will help advocate for tobacco control and support civil society organizations in their continued efforts for a healthier smoke-free future for Jordan.”  

The initiative is led by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the UN Interagency Task Force on Non-communicable Diseases, PATH and the Coalition for Access to NCD Medicines and Products, with support from the private sector.

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