WVU tobacco researchers win $100,000 grant to help pregnant smokers stop puffing

Study to assess whether Quitline help is effective during pregnancy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Pregnant women in north central West Virginia may receive a boost in their efforts to quit smoking under a pilot program created by West Virginia University researchers called Fax to Quit.

Under a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors will connect patients who’d like to kick the habit with the state’s Quitline, which boasts a success rate of 27 percent in helping people quit.

Women may be especially receptive to the idea of quitting during pregnancy because of widely publicized health benefits to both mother and child. Not smoking lowers the risk of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight – or even miscarriage. Swearing off cigarettes early in pregnancy also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

West Virginia has the highest rate in the nation – 27 percent – of women and girls who smoke during pregnancy, said Robert H. Anderson, deputy director of the WVU Prevention Research Center in the WVU Department of Community Medicine.

“This rate has been flat-lined for a number of years,” Anderson said. “Given that West Virginia already has a successful Quitline in place, we are going to see whether this outreach is effective. If the intervention works, it will provide a tremendous benefit for a relatively low cost.”

Women who are planning to deliver their babies at WVU Hospitals, Fairmont General Hospital or Preston Memorial Hospital may be approached by their doctors, who will ask permission to fax the women’s contact information to the Quitline.

Quitline coaches will then reach out to the women within 24 hours and keep up the contact over the course of the pregnancies. The Quitline (1-877-966-8784), a free service, is operated by beBetter, Inc., under contract with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.

Studies show telephone coaching can make a smoker four times more likely to be successful in quitting, Anderson said.

West Virginia recently earned an F on a March of Dimes report card ranking states on the number of babies born prematurely. Smoking was identified as a major contributor.

Along with Anderson, investigators on the study at WVU are Kimberly Horn, Ed.D., and Cindy Tworek, Ph.D. All WVU investigators are members of the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program (T2R2), a shared program of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and the Prevention Research Center. Lynne J. Goebel, M.D., of the Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, will provide initial training to physicians in Marion, Preston and Monongalia Counties.

Clinics involved with the study see high rates of pregnant patients who are smokers – as high as 60 and 80 percent.

Anderson said he expects the Fax to Quit program to begin operating by January or February and to reach more than 100 pregnant women during the course of the pilot study.

Fax to Quit is modeled after a program at the University of Wisconsin, customized for pregnant women.

For information on the WVU Prevention Research Center see http://prc.hsc.wvu.edu/.

For information on the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program (T2R2) see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/t2r2/.

For information on the West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention see http://www.wvdtp.org/.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 11-12-08

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