As the chief medical officer for a federally qualified health center in Southwest Detroit, I work with a population of patients who are struggling financially. Over 50% of our patients are uninsured. We have a vast immigrant population and most prefer Spanish over English.
I believe our patient population has higher rates of smoking due to stresses related to poverty and health literacy challenges. This can make it very difficult for many of our patients to quit once they have started smoking.
Our health center did not have anti-smoking programming, so when the opportunity arose to partner with the AOA to implement the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers 10-week smoking cessation program, I jumped on it.
What we did
We hung up Tips posters in our waiting room and also played Tips videos in our waiting room. You don’t have to be part of a formal program to use these materials; you can download the videos and posters for free here.
By hanging posters around our clinic and tracking outcomes over the span of 10 weeks, we were able to test whether the materials were effective tools. We ultimately saw a dramatic increase in smoking cessation conversations during that time period. Having the posters up and the videos playing not only reminded me to bring up smoking cessation with my patients, but also encouraged more patients to bring up the topic of quitting smoking with me.
What I learned
This exercise was also very helpful for assessing my patient panel from a population standpoint. I noticed many of my suboxone patients are smokers as well. I now anticipate having the discussion to quit smoking and to send smoking cessation referrals more often with these patients.
Many patient family members requested the Tips materials to bring home, which I thought was incredible. When I discussed the materials with patients, I learned that many had already seen the commercials on TV. The conversations in the clinic reinforced the messages seen on the commercials or on the posters.
I’m planning to continue using the Tips materials in our health center. All medical professionals think smoking cessation is important, but when it gets busy, it can be forgotten. Having the easy availability of the Tips materials is a nice reminder to always discuss smoking cessation when appropriate.
I’d encourage any physician in a small- to mid-sized practice to print and post the materials provided by the CDC. You can also order free pamphlets from their website that can be sent home with patients and their families. Every quit attempt is one step closer to better health, and these resources provide a simple, effective way to start the conversation.
Find a catalogue of smoking cessation materials here.