Voinovich School broadens scope in promoting smoking cessation

Daniel Kington
July 24, 2017

After meeting with considerable success in promoting smoking cessation in southeast Ohio, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs is expanding its impact.

The project, Ohio Partners for Smoke Free Families (OPSFF), has been funded by the Ohio Department of Health since 2014. OPSFF’s primary goal is to reduce smoking among southeastern Ohio women before, during and after pregnancy, as well as to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for both reproductive-age women and their children. To accomplish these goals, OPSFF has long worked to train health care providers in six southeastern Ohio counties to promote the same simple message of smoking cessation.

According to Voinovich School research associate Coleen Dietsch-Krubl, this task has largely been achieved.

“In the first couple years of the project, the focus was on training service providers,” Dietsch-Krubl said. “During the course of that time, we trained pretty much everyone there was to train.”

However, the School recognized the need to expand their approach to reach the project’s ultimate goal of reducing smoking in southeast Ohio. To continue toward that end, the Voinovich School launched a new phase of the project about a year ago, organizing ‘cessation coalitions’ in each of the project counties.

“A couple of counties are still figuring out how to manage the coalitions, but many have taken the ball and run with it, and we do have a foot in the door in all six,” Dietsch-Krubl said. “Some coalitions are beginning to focus on policy work that effects the whole population, which has required those groups to broaden their scope and bring in representatives from various facets of the community.”

In Lawrence County, for instance, the cessation coalition has led a successful effort to reduce exposure to second hand smoke by making their Farmer’s Market smoke-free. The coalition is currently working to do the same in the City of Ironton parks, and has also utilized a $3,000 mini-grant from the Voinovich School to launch a Facebook campaign promoting cessation. 

The Pike County coalition is working on an initiative to increase access to smoking cessation resources in workplaces, and utilized its mini-grant from the Voinovich School to launch a billboard campaign encouraging parents to quit smoking.

According to Dietsch-Krubl, the mini-grants have been helpful in generating the creative process within the coalitions. Each coalition was invited to apply for the $3,000 grant, requiring them to brainstorm creative uses for the money. So far, four of the six counties have been awarded the grant.

“The mini-grants really helped to kick start the work of these coalitions, and to give them some motivation and inspiration,” Dietsch-Krubl said.

That motivation is important, because, at least in Dietsch-Krubl’s view, passion is among the most important factors in building successful coalition groups.

“So much of making the coalitions successful is about getting the right people on board: the movers and shakers in the community, who are really passionate about the issue,” Dietsch-Krubl said.

To develop that motivated core of coalition organizers, many of the coalitions engage in internal education. For instance, a recent presentation for the Lawrence County coalition members, which was also livestreamed via the group’s Facebook page, focused on the environmental consequences of cigarette butt litter.

“Everyone knows about the danger of smoking to the individual, and more people are becoming aware of the dangers to those nearby, but not everyone knows that cigarette waste also poisons our environment and waterways,” Dietsch-Krubl said. “That’s yet another reason why smoking is so bad, and when the people who are on these coalitions understood that, it became another motivating factor to press forward with our work.”

Currently, the Voinovich School is providing facilitation for the coalitions, with Dietsch-Krubl leading most meetings. Although the Voinovich School expects to continue working on OPSFF, Dietsch-Krubl hopes that the coalitions will eventually outlast the School’s involvement.

“We’re helping these coalitions as they get their footing, but I’m really hoping that these coalitions can be sustainable on their own,” Dietsch-Krubl said.