Program to cut smoking in pregnancy begins May 1 in Oswego County

On May 1, a new program called “Smoke Free For My Baby & Me” will be rolled out in Oswego County.

The program supports pregnant women’s efforts to quit using tobacco during their pregnancy and to abstain from smoking after delivery. This program has been made possible thanks to community partnerships and financial support from multiple parties.

The “Smoke Free For My Baby & Me” program will have its primary site at Oswego County OB/GYN and will enroll qualified pregnant women.

Participating women successfully abstaining from smoking will receive diapers for their babies each month. Clinical, online and social media support will be available for these women in their cessation process.

Various measurements will take place throughout the project to evaluate the programs’ success. For more information, call Oswego County OB/GYN at 343-2590.

Plans for the program started about a year ago when Oswego County agencies with public health concerns came together via the Rural Health Network. They realized smoking was still a big issue in the county even though smoking rates were dropping across the state.

State data reveals 32 percent of adults smoke in Oswego County as compard to 18 percent in New York state.

Furthermore, a community tobacco survey conducted by Tobacco Free Network indicated young smokers are more willing to quit smoking than their elders, and female smokers are more willing than their male counterparts.

Taking all of this into consideration, this group decided to focus their efforts on smoking cessation during pregnancy, noting this will benefit both the woman and her child(ren).

The Tobacco Free Network, part of the Integrated Community Planning of Oswego County, Inc. had the expertise in addressing tobacco issues; Oswego County OB/GYN wanted to aid smoking women’s cessation efforts as they seek prenatal and postpartum care; the WIC Program of Oswego County Opportunities was naturally making connections with many young women in the county; and faculty from the Department of Communications at SUNY Oswego was willing to provide technical program assessment support.

But money was a problem. Many agencies had seen funding cuts, so no one was sure where the money for this project would come from.

“We can do it as long as we stay together,” said Christina Wilson, executive director of Integrated Community Planning.

The various groups stayed together and the team expanded. Oswego Hospital brought their tobacco cessation counseling experience to the team; the Tobacco Cessation Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center came with a Performance Improvement Project for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners; the Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc. approached the team with the vast rural area it serves.

But a lack of money was still the biggest challenge the team faced.

The first breakthrough in securing funds was the successful application for a Community Health Award grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

The Oswego County Health Department, Oswego County Opportunities and Integrated Community Planning worked together in the application process and the project was one of seven projects selected from more than 60 applications.

Oswego County OB/GYN also successfully applied to Fidelis Care for the purchase of needed equipment. The United Way of Greater Oswego County, Rural Health Network and the Oswego Elks Club came with money to support the diaper incentives for successful program participants.

Most recently, the Oswego County Health Department was notified the New York State Health Foundation will provide up to $26,000 in matching funds to support this project.

The foundation’s mission is to expand health insurance coverage, increase access to high-quality health care services and to improve public and community health.

As the funds were coming, other preparations for “Smoke Free For My Baby & Me” were under way as well.

Integrated Community Planning developed project materials; St. Joseph conducted a training session; the county health department Integrated Community Planning, Oswego OB/GYN, OCO, Oswego Hospital and Northern Oswego County Health Services Inc., now have staff trained; Oswego OB/GYN developed participant applications; SUNY Oswego refined assessment tools.

Everything is ready for the project to launch May 1.

“Partnerships are the best approach to solve many public health issues in the county,” said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County director of public health.

He noted pregnant women who smoke are only a small portion of smoking adults and the group must not stop here. The county has many public health issues to address; such as childhood and adult obesity, excessive drinking and drug abuse.

“We need broad partnerships like this to get individuals and institutions involved in improving our community health,” he added.

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