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What We Don't Ask Might Hurt

Annual Report - Winter 2012

Project helps underserved in quitting smoking

By Katrina Burton

“Do you smoke cigarettes now?” is an important question.

It can yield some promising results, says Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, Ph.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Health Disparities Research.

As lead investigator on the smoking cessation study, Project Quitline, she knows how data can show the impact that a simple question has on patients.

Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, Ph.D. (left), and Senior Research 
Coordinator Shirley Nelson (center) of MD Anderson meet 
with Carmen Mitchell-Bibbs, a nurse at the Martin Luther 
King Jr. Health Center.
Photo: John Everett

The project’s aim is to increase use of the State of Texas Quitline among medically underserved, racially/ethnically diverse smokers. The Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) — one of the nation’s largest care providers to the economically disadvantaged population — administers the program at 10 clinics.

Trained providers ask all patients about their smoking status at every visit, advise those who smoke to quit, and directly connect those who accept cessation help with the Quitline.

The process, referred to as “Ask-Advise-Connect,” is a simple way for health care providers to connect smokers with evidence-based cessation treatment.

Through her research with the HCHD clinics, Irvin Vidrine discovered that almost 40% of patients who revealed they were smokers agreed to be connected with the Quitline.

“Quitline can be easily and conveniently accessed by a large number of smokers,” she says.

Study base broadens

Her success in publicizing the smoking quitline to the underserved in the HCHD clinics has led to a more recent study with another group. 

The Kelsey-Seybold Quitline Study is similar, except the population is largely insured with greater socioeconomic resources. Irvin Vidrine has implemented the Ask-Advise-Connect approach in 10 Kelsey-Seybold clinics throughout Houston.

The Center for Community-Engaged Translational Research, part of the Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment, supports both projects, including shepherding the submission through the Institutional Review Board and developing training for HCHD employees involved in recruitment and education of patients.

“We want to measure the difference in populations and compare how the approach works in two very different health care systems,” Irvin Vidrine says. “Both projects apply principles of community-engaged research with significant input and involvement by partners.”

Data are still being collected for both studies, with analysis and release of findings several months away.

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