Indiana Continues Aggressive Push to Help Smokers Quit

In State News on June 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm

A new and unusual ad campaign is being unveiled this week featuring physicians urging other health care providers to make treatment a priority for their patients who smoke. The campaign is a proactive peer-to-peer education program featuring real doctors reminding their peers how important it is for them to discuss smoking and the benefits of quitting with their patients.

The “As Physicians” campaign will begin on June 3 and runs through September. Ads will be featured throughout the state in magazines, medical journals such as The Journal of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP), local newspapers, and on medical web sites.

“Two-thirds of smokers in Indiana have visited a health care provider in the past year. This presents a tremendous opportunity for doctors to intervene and give patients the help they need to quit successfully,” said Dr. Teresa Lovins, IAFP President.

The campaign was created by Indiana Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP) and funded through a grant from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in collaboration with the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation State Agency and the Indiana State Department of Health.

While most anti-smoking efforts target smokers, this campaign speaks directly to doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dentists, dental hygienists, and other health care professionals. The campaign goal is to increase the number of quit attempts among smokers who want to quit by challenging clinicians across the state to take time at every office visit to talk to their patients about the benefits of quitting tobacco use.

“Every patient should be advised to quit smoking or using tobacco products at every visit. If a patient is ready to quit, a quit-date should be set in two weeks. There are over one million smokers in Indiana who say they want to quit, but people have all kinds of barriers in mind. There are far too many times that patients go to the doctor and aren’t asked if they smoke,” said Dr. Judith Monroe, Indiana’s State Health Commissioner.

Tobacco addiction is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in Indiana. Nearly 10,000 Hoosiers die every year from smoking. Studies have found that when health care providers take the time to talk to their patients about smoking and offer assistance with quitting, long-term success can be dramatically increased. Sixty five percent of current smokers intend to quit smoking within six months, yet only 33 percent of the smokers who visited their health professional in the past year received any specific quitting advice.

Karla Sneegas, Executive Director of Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC), said “Every time a patient is advised to quit using tobacco, they move closer to actually quitting. Doctors spend a lot of time treating smoking-related health problems. If we can change the system be more proactive at helping patients who are ready to quit—successfully quit, we could save thousands of lives and alleviate a great deal of suffering.”

Several organizations have stepped forward to help educate physicians regarding the use of the 5 As (ask, advise, assess, assist, and arrange for follow-up) to approach their patients to encourage them to quit smoking. Some professionals see this as moving one step closer to healthcare reform and preventive medicine.

Many times doctors can feel ineffective when talking about smoking with their patients. It’s important for physicians to know that when they speak their patients do listen. Clinicians have a tremendous amount of influence with patients. Research shows that most smokers try to quit without effective treatment and, as a result, the majority will relapse to smoking.

Evidence suggests that helping patients to overcome chronic tobacco dependence is one of the most cost effective interventions clinicians can provide to improve their patients’ health.

Robert Hillman, president, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Indiana says, “engaging physicians in an aggressive cessation program is a big step toward preventive health care. Patients trust their doctors; they are the front line in the fight to improve their patient’s health and we want to support that.”

The “As Physicians” campaign will encourage clinicians to join the Quit Now Provider Network to receive free materials and proven, professional resources to help patients break their addiction to tobacco. The campaign tagline is, “This may be our greatest opportunity to save lives.”

This program is patterned after a successful campaign launched in New York State, called “Don’t be Silent.”


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