UVA Health, community pharmacies partners of h

image: UVA School of Medicine researcher Melissa Little, PhD, MPH, leads an initiative to help more residents of rural Appalachia quit smoking.
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Credit: UVA Health

Fourteen independent community pharmacies will team up with UVA Health to help residents of rural Appalachia quit smoking and test the effectiveness of several smoking cessation programs, including one based on text messaging. The project ultimately aims to reduce the region’s cancer rates, which are among the highest in the country.

Supported by more than $5 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute, 14 pharmacies selected for the program in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee will participate in the study.

“Clearly, publicly available smoking cessation resources are not reaching residents of this area,” said Melissa Little, PhD, MPH, research fellow in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the UVA School of Medicine and responsible for this initiative. “We hope that by working with local community pharmacies, we will be able to help more smokers interested in quitting who otherwise might not have sought help with their quit attempt. »

The impact of smoking in Appalachia

Rural Appalachia has one of the highest smoking rates in the United States. For example, an analysis of data from 2015 to 2019 found that the smoking rate in rural Appalachian counties was 20.9%, compared to a statewide smoking rate of 13.3%. Higher cancer rates in rural Appalachia can be attributed to smoking, Little said, as studies have shown that smoking is estimated to account for 30% of all cancer deaths and 90% of all breast cancer deaths. lung.

However, residents of rural Appalachia are less likely to take advantage of commonly available resources to quit smoking — such as telephone counseling and nicotine replacement therapy — which little suspects may be due to the shortage of health care providers. In the region.

She believes community pharmacists based in rural Appalachia are uniquely positioned to help residents quit smoking.

“We conducted a small demonstration study in partnership with Gates Pharmacy, a community pharmacy in Mt. Airy, NC, to determine the feasibility of the approach,” Little said. “Overall, the project has been well received by participants interested in quitting smoking as well as Gates pharmacists and technicians.”

“The patient recruitment and enrollment process was simple, the intervention guides were clear and easy to follow, and all of our staff were able to contribute in their own way to the success of the project,” said Hayley Wood, Head of Pharmacy at Gates. Pharmacy.

The program will evaluate the effectiveness of different combinations of smoking cessation programs. The 768 participants will receive nicotine replacement therapy through gum, a patch or both.

Additionally, participants will be randomly selected to participate in one of three programs:

  • QuitAid: Participants will have one in-person meeting and five follow-up phone sessions over a month with a pharmacist, who will provide support and help answer any questions or concerns about nicotine replacement therapy.
  • Smoking Cessation Helpline: Participants will have four 20-30 minute phone calls over four weeks from a trained tobacco treatment specialist working on the project to help them quit smoking and prevent relapse.
  • SmokefreeTXT: A text messaging program developed by the National Cancer Institute that sends participants three to five text messages a day for seven weeks to help participants quit smoking and prevent relapse.

For more information

The study is expected to begin in April 2023. Pharmacies and smokers interested in the program can learn more by emailing [email protected] or calling study coordinator Taylor Reid at 434.924.8894.


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