Smoking and tobacco use in upstate New York counties trends higher than other parts of the state
The Heart Network has received a five-year grant from the New York State Department of Health to continue its Health Systems for a Tobacco Free North Country (HSTFNC) program aimed at reducing tobacco-related health effects in northern New York.
Through the grant-funded HSTFNC program, the Heart Network focuses on advancing health care providers’ efforts at identifying and treating nicotine addiction among their patients in both medical and behavioral health settings, part of a larger effort to decrease the incidence of cardiac disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic illness in northern New York.
“For 20 years, tobacco cessation has been central to the Heart Network’s mission,” said Executive Director Ann Morgan. “We’ve known for some time that tobacco use and smoking have been and continue to be the leading cause of preventable death in this country. We also know that while progress has been made, the rate of smoking and tobacco use in upstate New York counties trends higher than other parts of New York State. We’re grateful to the state for its continued support of our tobacco cessation programming in the North Country.”
The Heart Network initially focused its tobacco program on counseling individuals before shifting to an approach that now helps primary care and behavioral health provider organizations to systematically identify and treat nicotine-addicted patients. Since making that shift, some 58 percent of the Heart Network’s healthcare provider partners have adopted comprehensive evidence-based policies and practices proven to promote and support cessation, including Essex County Mental Health (ECMH).
“We started working with the Heart Network to expand our efforts to assist clients interested in quitting tobacco in 2016,” said ECMH Executive Director Terri Morse. “In 2020, we updated our policy and formed a Tobacco Dependence Team that developed a plan for increasing the percentage of tobacco using clients that receive an evidence-based interview. Since beginning implementation of that plan, the percentage of clients meeting that criteria has increased from 10% last fall to 70% as of the end of March this year. The Heart Network’s input and assistance with this work has been invaluable. We’re grateful that support will continue.”
Additionally, the establishment of the North Country Tobacco Treatment Network, facilitated by the Heart Network, led to increased collaboration between tobacco treatment specialists in the region, who now share effective approaches and take part in professional development opportunities together.
“Looking ahead, our aim is to build on these established, effective approaches to reducing tobacco use,” said Andrea Goff, project coordinator for the Heart Network. “We also plan to work with all of our partners to find new strategies and focus on motivating the public sector to adopt tobacco prevention and cessation strategies that align with state-funded initiatives, including Advancing Tobacco Free Communities.”
In addition to HSTFNC, the Heart Network administers two other programs: the Creating Healthy Schools & Communities program in Franklin County, the goal of which is to develop a coordinated, multi-sector initiative designed to increase demand for and access to healthy, affordable foods and opportunities for daily physical activity in high-need school districts and their surrounding communities; and the North Country Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition, a network of healthcare providers, community-based organizations, and other regional stakeholders working to replicate and expand evidence-based diabetes prevention programs across the North Country.