Smoke Free For My Baby and Me Launching May 1

OSWEGO, NY – On May 1, a new program called “Smoke Free For My Baby and 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.

It started about a year ago when Oswego County agencies with public health concerns came together via the Rural Health Network.

They realized that smoking was still a big issue in the county even though smoking rates were dropping across the state.

State data reveals 32% of adults smoke in Oswego County vs. 18% in NYS.

Furthermore a community tobacco survey conducted by Tobacco Free Network indicated that 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 that 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 were willing to provide technical program assessment support.

However, with funding cuts in the last several years, no agency including the Oswego County Health Department, had the resources to implement a program for smoking pregnant women.

“We can do it as long as we stay together,” Christina Wilson, Executive Director of ICP, encouraged everyone.

They stayed together and the team expanded.

Oswego Hospital brought its 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.

However, a lack of funding 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. OCHD, OCO, and ICP 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 funds to support the diaper incentives for successful program participants.

Most recently, OCHD was notified that the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) will provide up to $26,000 in matching funds to support this project.

NYSHealth’s mission is to expand health insurance coverage, increase access to high-quality health care services, and to improve public and community health. The views presented here are those of this author and not necessarily those of NYSHealth or its directors, officers and staff.

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

ICP developed project materials; St. Joseph conducted a training session; OCHD, ICP, Oswego OB/GYN, OCO, Oswego Hospital, and NOCHSI now have staff trained; Oswego OB/GYN developed participant applications; SUNY Oswego refined assessment tools.

Everything is ready for the project to launch on May 1.

Looking back at the almost year long process of setting up the project, Jiancheng Huang,  Director of Public Health of OCHD, said, “Partnerships are the best approach to solve many public health issues in the county.”

He noted that pregnant women who smoke are only a small portion of smoking adults and “although we are very excited about the success of this group’s efforts, we 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.

The “Smoke Free For My Baby and 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.