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Voinovich School project promotes smoking cessation intervention in SE Ohio

Daniel Kington
December 1, 2015

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs recently received two additional years of funding from the Ohio Department of Health to work with six counties in Southeast Ohio to promote an evidence-based smoking cessation intervention.

The project is part of a broader initiative under the Ohio Partnership for Smoke Free Families, which seeks to reduce smoking among Ohio women before, during and after pregnancy. Another project objective is to work to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. To accomplish these goals, the partnership is attempting to increase the adoption, reach and impact of a smoking cessation intervention from the U.S. Public Health Service called the five A’s (Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist and Arrange).

With the funding renewal, the Voinovich School has intensified its efforts in the four counties in which the team had previously been working, while also expanding the project into two additional counties.

The goal is to saturate communities in the six Southeastern Ohio counties with a variety of trained providers offering the same message: quit smoking. The Voinovich School will be working with providers in maternal and reproductive health; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and, Help Me Grow as well as other health and social service providers. Because smoking is highly accepted in these counties, saturation helps ensure that people will receive the same message of cessation from multiple sources.

According to Laura Milazzo, senior research associate at the Voinovich School, as a result of the Voinovich School’s trainings many more healthcare and social service providers are now using the cessation intervention, and are also more aware of all five of the intervention steps.

During the first two years of the project, the School trained 107 professionals across 35 organizations in four counties. Twenty-two organizations implemented the evidence-based intervention. Ten agencies agreed to collect information about their implementation and their data indicated that 747 women received the intervention and more than half of them reported they smoked. Of those who smoked, 10 percent reported a reduction in their smoking during a follow-up visit, whereas three percent reported that they had quit smoking altogether.

According to Milazzo, many of the providers in the region reported they would ask whether clients smoked prior to the trainings led by the Voinovich School. “But they may or may not have advised a client to quit smoking,” she went on to say. “They may or may not have assessed whether the client was ready to give a quit attempt a try.”

However, Milazzo stated that the Voinovich School has worked to improve this situation with the project. “One measure looks to see whether providers decide to implement the intervention after they are trained,” Milazzo said. “Many people can go to a training – they attend the training and participate in it – but do they then go forward and implement what they’ve learned? We found that 67 percent of targeted providers reported they were using the intervention after being trained and have gone on to receive additional support.”

Milazzo believes offering ongoing technical assistance has contributed to the success of the project thus far. “We’re able to help providers after they’re trained, look at how they’re currently addressing tobacco cessation, and then integrate this intervention model into their practice,” Milazzo said. “That additional assistance, I think, goes a long way towards them not feeling lost after training. We’re bridging what they’ve learned in the training and how they actually apply it back in their clinic or social service setting.”

In praising the nature of the project, which compliments the Voinovich School’s mission of applied research, Milazzo also underscored the project as an opportunity for students to gain real world experience.

While multiple students have worked on the project, Haley Trottier, a Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholar, has been heavily involved by completing data entry and assisting with the development of the training materials. Trottier has also had the opportunity to participate in two of the trainings this fall.

“The position has helped me to confirm my interest in research and taught me many things that are intertwined with what I will be doing for the rest of my life,” Trottier said. “I have learned how to effectively and efficiently enter, clean and analyze data. I have improved my scientific writing skills, and my ability to multitask and prioritize when working on several different projects at a time. I have become comfortable in working with human subjects and all the different pieces that go into preparing a successful presentation.”

Trottier went on to say, “All in all it has been a great experience and I am very thankful to have been selected to work as an undergraduate research scholar at the Voinovich School.”