Not that long ago – in 2006 to be exact – a $270,000 grant was awarded to Dr. Patricia Smith, Associate Professor, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Lakehead University Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Scott Sellick, Director of Supportive and Palliative Care, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre by the Northern Cancer Fund (formerly the Northern Cancer Research Foundation). Funded completely through donations, the grant was to provide funding for research into hospital-based smoking cessation initiatives.
Fast forward to 2016, and that initial investment has yielded approximately $1.4M in additional funding from various sources to support this important work. “Our research team is extremely grateful to have had the initial grant from the Northern Cancer Fund to support our work. As a result of that initial funding, we’ve made great strides in the past ten years to implement smoking cessation initiatives in hospitals and clinics across NW Ontario and provide patient and family-centred approaches smoking cessation,” says Dr. Smith.
“Smoking is still prevalent in Northwestern Ontario,” says Dr. Smith. “About 26% of people here smoke, compared to a provincial average of 18%. We hope that the funding continues so that we can provide good quality, evidence-based, supportive programs for people interested in cutting down or quitting.”
When the research began in the mid-2000’s, it looked at implementing five systems in hospitals across Northwestern Ontario to support smoking cessation. They were:
At Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, one major advancement has been the addition of a full-time Tobacco Cessation Research Nurse who meets with inpatients and asks about interest in quitting or cutting down. If patients are interested, she enrolls them in the study, works with them to develop a personalized quit plan, and supports them for a year post-discharge with scheduled phone calls.
“A hospital stay provides a window of opportunity to quit smoking because you are temporarily forced to cut down or quit due to smoking bans, and you are also removed from the daily things that trigger you to smoke,” says Dr. Smith. “Research has shown that receiving a quit smoking program during a hospitalization, along with continued post-discharge support, increases the likelihood of successfully quitting. Thanks to the research we’ve done at TBRHSC in implementing this smoking cessation program, it is now the standard of care, and other hospitals in NW Ontario have started to adopt the same approach. TBRHSC also offers outpatient cessation programs in the Maternity Centre, the Centre for Complex Diabetes Care, Regional Cancer Care Northwest, and Cardiac Rehabilitation as part of this initiative.”
“I’m very grateful to donors who helped us get started. The impact it has had for patients who have successfully quit smoking is incredible,” concludes Dr. Smith. “Not only are we changing people’s lives here, but we’re able to share our findings with people across the country. They are interested in our success and thanks to those initial donors, we’re able to provide evidence-based approaches to smoking cessation that will influence countless others.”