UNC Health Care wins Excellence in Workplace Tobacco Control Award

Four years after implementing a tobacco free policy on its campus and facilities, UNC Health Care is proud to announce that it is one of nine winners of the 2011 American Cancer Society Excellence in Workplace Tobacco Control Award.

UNC Health Care wins Excellence in Workplace Tobacco Control Award click to enlarge Congratulations to everyone who has worked to develop, support and maintain a tobacco free workplace at UNC Health Care!

Media contact: Jennifer James, 919-966-7622, jjames@unch.unc.edu

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - This award recognizes companies with a minimum of 1,000 employees who help their employees stay well by providing outstanding tobacco cessation programs, policies, and benefit coverage to encourage tobacco cessation in the workplace.

UNC Health Care qualifies for the honor because of the tobacco cessation resources made available to employees through the UNC Department of Family Medicine’s Nicotine Dependence Program (NDP) and Healthy Heels (UNC Health Care’s Employee Wellness Committee).

“This is a wonderful award and recognition for the Nicotine Dependence Program and the health care system that supports it,” said Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, director of UNC Tobacco Intervention Programs and a professor in Family Medicine.  

“This award is especially gratifying since the workplace tobacco cessation activities at UNC receive support from so many people, including the nursing staff, physicians, Occupational Health Services, the outpatient Pharmacy, Hospital Police, and many others,” Dr. Goldstein said. “This support reflects the institutional commitment to policy advancement and employee tobacco cessation support.”

At the core of the NDP’s employee tobacco cessation efforts is the “Tobacco Free Tar Heels” program, a free tobacco-use treatment program for UNC Health Care employees and their covered dependents. Tobacco Free Tar Heels provides employees with an initial assessment, treatment plan, weekly follow-up contacts, and up to three months of tobacco cessation medication at no cost.

“We come up with a tailored treatment plan for every participant,” said Katie Patsakham, tobacco treatment specialist and program manager for Tobacco Free Tar Heels.

“Each person has their own reasons for wanting to quit. A strategy that is perfect for one person might not work for another,” Patsakham said. “We know that the combination of medication and counseling gives our employees the best chance of successfully quitting. Within this framework, we provide flexibility so that we can meet the needs of each individual.”

So far, more than 50 UNC Health Care employees have enrolled in Tobacco Free Tar Heels in 2011. Of those who completed the first round of treatment, more than 60 percent were tobacco-free three months later.

After smoking for 36 years, Martha Killough, an outpatient coordinator in the N.C. Cancer Hospital at UNC Health Care, is proud to be among those who have quit thanks to Tobacco Free Tar Heels.

“It was depressing to even think about quitting,” Martha said. “I just felt like it was going to be hard.”

But after reading about the program in UNC Health Care’s employee e-newsletter, Martha decided to enroll in the program.

One component of Martha’s “quit plan” was a prescription for a Nicotrol inhaler. After filling her prescription on the Friday after her first appointment, Martha decided to give herself a weekend to enjoy a few final days of smoking.

But then her plan changed.

On Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:05 a.m., as she was smoking her morning cigarette, Martha asked herself, “How can I make this the most memorable birthday ever?” She decided that cigarette would be her last.

“It keeps me going,” Martha said, referring to her birthday being her quit date. “Life is good smoke-free.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) agrees. According to the CDC, tobacco cessation treatment programs like Tobacco Free Tar Heels continue to be among the most effective measures available to reduce health care costs and increase workplace productivity.

You can learn more about UNC Health Care’s Nicotine Dependence Program at www.ndp.unc.edu or by calling 919-445-5358.

Congratulations to everyone who has worked to develop, support and maintain a tobacco free workplace at UNC Health Care!

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