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New service available among local health care providers to help residents quit using tobacco

August 20, 2011

Cottonwood-Jackson Community Health Service
The Cottonwood-Jackson Community Health Service Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) has been working with health care providers in the Windom area to help develop resources and increase access to high quality nutritious foods, opportunities for physical activity, and tobacco cessation. This project is part of a larger effort by Cottonwood-Jackson-Redwood-Renville which is funded by the Minnesota Department of Health SHIP grant. In 2010, 19 counties in southwest and south central Minnesota including Cottonwood County conducted an adult health survey to learn about health and health habits, including tobacco use. This survey was conducted in the spring of 2010 as part of the SHIP program that aims to help Minnesotan's live longer, healthier lives by reducing the burden of chronic disease. This survey indicated that 17% of Cottonwood County residents are current smokers, and 23% are former smokers. Of the 40 % who are current and former smokers, 5 out of 10 said that they had tried to quit in the last 12 months. In addition, an assessment of area health providers revealed 44% of providers indicated that about quarter to half of their patients were smokers and there was no systematic way that patients were referred for tobacco cessation services. With the help of SHIP, the Tobacco Fax Referral System, which is a collaboration among seven of Minnesota's major health plans to connect patients to appropriate tobacco quit line services was implemented in January, 2011 at the Sanford Windom and Mt Lake Clinics, Windom Area Hospital, Avera Medical Group Windom, and the Cottonwood-Jackson Community Health Service. This system enables health care providers to use a single form and fax number to refer patients who want to quit using tobacco to tobacco cessation support. All Minnesota residents, whether or not they are covered by a health plan, have access to this free tobacco cessation program. From January 2011 to June 2011, the tobacco fax referral system was used by five health care providers to varying degrees with a total of 60 people referred to the program, and 30 people agreed to enroll in the program. Judy Trotter, Clinic Manager for Avera Medical Group Windom is excited about what she sees happening with the tobacco fax referral system in their clinic. She stated “working together on this project was a good opportunity to get local clinics and health care systems to work together on common goals. We identified the need and made it happen. SHIP helped us get this going by helping arrange the details with the Center for Prevention at BCBS to get us started.” Shannon LaCanne, Wellness Director at the Windom Area Hospital also saw benefits for patients seen at the hospital. She stated, “Putting the tobacco fax referral system in action was a success for our group. It is an easy program for providers to access.” Laurie Stenke, Clinic Manager for Sanford Windom and Mountain Lake added “We know how important it is for all of us to ask our patients about using tobacco and a patients desire to quit. If all of us are asking people about tobacco use, it should increase the odds of quitting.” According to a Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Minnesota study entitled “Healthcare Costs and Smoking in Minnesota, November 2010, smoking was responsible for $2.87 billion in excess medical expenditures in 2007 in Minnesota. In this same study, smoking also claims the lives of 5,135 Minnesotan's each year and its the number one preventable cause of death in the US. Trotter concludes “it only makes sense for all of us to help our patients manage and prevent the harms of tobacco. This is a big system change and one that we know can continue even if SHIP can't support our efforts. We now have the data to show this!” SHIP seeks to change systems by working together to identify ways to support practices that help manage chronic diseases. “This is a great first step in getting public and private providers to jointly implement a practice that will impact the lives of many people in our community and help them become tobacco-free,” commented Bonnie Frederickson, PHN and SHIP Coordinator. “This is exactly what SHIP is about, and this group has been so committed to make things happen!”


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