St. Peter’s Health Partners (SPHP) held an awards ceremony on May 16 recognizing Alliance for Positive Health’s commitment to improving the health outcomes of the vulnerable populations it serves by addressing nicotine dependence.
“As health care providers, we see firsthand the damage that tobacco and nicotine use have on our patients,” said Steven Hanks, M.D., MMM, FACP, FFSMB, chief clinical officer and chief operating officer for SPHP.” Smoking cigarettes harms nearly all the organs in the body and has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and a host of other illnesses. Cessation efforts like those championed by Alliance for Positive Health and SPHP’s Community Health Programs are critical to improving the health of not just individuals, but the population as a whole.”
A community leader for more than 37 years, Alliance for Positive Health is a not-for-profit agency that provides services to individuals living with or affected by HIV/AIDS and other serious medical and social conditions.
“The rate at which our clients smoke is two to three times greater than the general population,” said Donna Vancavage, Director of Development & Marketing for Alliance for Positive Health. “Many of these people are immunocompromised and have serious health conditions. Many clients live at or below the national poverty level, live in underserved communities including rural areas, and face barriers that make it difficult to get health coverage and basic health care services. For them, tobacco and nicotine use are detrimental to both their health and their financial well-being.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. It causes more than 480,000 premature deaths, over $170 billion in lost productivity costs, and at least $133 billion in direct medical expenditures each year.
SPHP’s Community Health Programs is dedicated to improving population health in the Capital Region and addressing tobacco dependence is critical to its mission. As part of the New York State Department of Health’s Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York, Community Health Programs has been able to provide resources and education to assist the Alliance in establishing a sustainable, system-wide standard of care to provide their clients with tobacco dependence assessment and referral for treatment.
“We work with health care systems to improve the reach and delivery of evidence-based tobacco dependence treatment,” explained Erin Sinisgalli, director of Community Health Programs for SPHP. “This is especially important in underserved populations where individuals may not have regular access to health care and may not realize how much their tobacco habit is costing them, how much can they save if they quit, and how these savings can help better manage their specific health needs.”
The Alliance’s system-wide tobacco cessation approach includes the addition of smoking questionnaires to its Electronic Medical Record; access to smoking cessation referral agencies within the 15 counties it serves; and check-ins to ensure clients follow through with cessation efforts.
Kelley Winslow, president, board of directors for Alliance for Positive Health, accepted the award from SPHP.
“We cannot thank St. Peter’s Health Partners enough for their partnership,” said Winslow. “The technical support and training to address nicotine dependence with our clients, as well as financial support they have provided, are allowing us to make a positive change in the health of the communities we serve.”