Across the MaineHealth system, clinical teams are making sure patients who want to quit tobacco have the resources and support they need to be successful. In 2016, MaineHealth set a goal to increase the number of patients referred to the Maine Tobacco HelpLine, a state-funded resource that is free to all Maine residents and managed by the MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence.
When tobacco users have the support of a HelpLine, they are four times more likely to quit successfully than when they try on their own. And when it comes to quitting smoking, research suggests that patients who receive assistance from their health care provider are two times more likely to successfully quit tobacco.
“Talking with patients about their tobacco use is important,” said David Spaulding, program manager for the MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence. “Research shows people may attempt to quit as many as 30 times before they quit for good, and chances for success improve with each attempt. We advise offering patients a referral to the HelpLine at every opportunity, because one of those times, they will say yes to treatment.”
Mary Ann Pollard, 76, started smoking when she was 18 years old. About six years ago, she started gradually reducing the number of cigarettes she was smoking — from as many as three packs a day to 10-12 cigarettes a day. During a visit with Rob Chamberlin, MD, her primary care provider at Maine Medical Partners, Pollard talked about her tobacco use and expressed that she might be interested in quitting for good. Dr. Chamberlin told her about the Maine Tobacco HelpLine and to call when she was ready.
In the meantime, the HelpLine mailed Pollard some materials about quitting smoking and she began incorporating the tips into her daily routine. Tobacco treatment specialists also called to check on her progress. “They were very helpful and supportive,” said Pollard. “They told me not to worry if I relapsed and to call them back if I ever wanted to talk.”
Recognizing the key role providers play in encouraging patients to quit, all MaineHealth primary care practices that are on Epic (our system’s shared electronic health record) were trained in 2017-18 on how to make a referral to the HelpLine using Epic — a process that takes as little as 60 seconds. In the first year after the training, these practices referred twice as many patients to the HelpLine compared to the previous year, and 65 percent more of their patients enrolled in treatment. At Lincoln Medical Partners practices alone, 299 patients were referred to the HelpLine, a 200 percent increase over FY17. “I feel really good that I did quit,” said Pollard.
Andy Paul knew he needed to get active and lose some weight. But when his doctor told him that he had prediabetes and would need to go on medication, Paul knew he needed to take action. “I made it my mission to learn everything I could about the condition,” he said.
Paul’s spouse told him about a lifestyle change program offered through MaineHealth called the Diabetes Prevention Program, and he signed up immediately. Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
this evidence-based program is proven to help people lower their chance of developing type 2 diabetes by teaching them about healthy eating and ways to increase physical activity. Classes are open to the public and offered through every MaineHealth hospital.
By participating in the Diabetes Prevention Program, Paul learned new ways to fit physical activity into his day and make healthy food choices. His hard work and dedication paid off; over the course of a year, his blood sugar level was within the normal range and his doctor told him that he no longer needs to take medication.
"Prediabetes is a treatable condition. There are simple steps patients can take to prevent the progression of prediabetes to diabetes." - Christina Holt, MD
Research has shown that people with prediabetes who take part in this structured lifestyle change program cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent through modest weight loss (about 7 percent of body weight). “The Diabetes Prevention Program is one of the best resources to address prediabetes and support personal habit changes,” said Dr. Holt.
Belfast Public Health Nursing Association (BPHNA), which has provided health care and other critical support to the most disadvantaged members of our community for more than 100 years, has received a $15,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.