Regular visits to the doctor, screening for potential health problems and getting help to quit smoking are just a few opportunities some of us take for granted.
The unfortunate reality is that access to health care services is unequal, with the medically underserved — those who are uninsured or underinsured — less likely to receive these types of services.
The Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) in Texas is one of the nation’s largest providers of care to the medically underserved and economically disadvantaged, a group in which smoking rates are higher. Through a partnership with the HCHD and the State of Texas Quitline, researchers in the Department of Health Disparities Research at M. D. Anderson have launched a research program designed to ensure access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment for this population.
“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, and tobacco use is much higher among people of lower socioeconomic status, resulting in underserved individuals suffering disproportionately high rates of cancer incidence and mortality,” says Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Disparities Research and principal investigator on the study. “With cancer being a leading cause of death among the underserved, it’s crucial that effective smoking cessation interventions are provided in these communities.”
Through a grant funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study seeks to enhance dissemination of smoking cessation treatment via the Quitline within 10 HCHD clinics. It will evaluate a new approach to connecting underserved smokers to the Quitline called “Ask-Advise-Connect,” which has a goal to eliminate treatment barriers by providing patients’ contact information directly to the Quitline.
“Quitline-based treatment is highly effective, yet grossly underused by smokers with limited resources,” says David Wetter, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Health Disparities Research and study co-investigator. “Our goal is to produce an effective program that can be easily adopted by health care systems throughout the nation.”
The study has the potential to affect 30,000 underserved smokers. Connecting this population with effective treatment is a critically important public health priority
and crucial to eliminating health disparities.