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Sept. 23, 2016

Oswego County Health Department Offers Help For Mothers

OSWEGO COUNTY - As Oswego County continues to focus on providing a healthy environment for its citizens, the health community celebrates the success of the "Smoke Free for My Baby and Me" program.

The initiative was developed by a diligent network of community partners. It is aimed at helping pregnant women successfully quit smoking through clinic-based best practices, peer support, monitoring, and incentives such as free diapers.

One participant, Selena Stacey, talks about her experience with gratitude and optimism. "This program really gave me the support and extra motivation I needed to quit smoking when I was pregnant with my last child, and to remain smoke-free today."

Stacey, who began smoking as a teen, was a pack-a-day smoker before she quit. She said that she has had cravings and set-backs, but that working with Amber Shumway, one of the program's original counselors, helped to keep her going.

"I read this book about stopping smoking and it helped me realize that I was stuck in a cycle of addiction and that I had to change my mind-set if I was going to be successful this time around," said Stacey. "Now when I have cravings, I really stop and think about it. I look at the progress I've made and don't want to throw that away and start over. Also, it helps to talk about it with someone who's been there."

She is a strong advocate for the program and helps other participants as a peer counselor. "Not everyone wants help, but for those that do, I enjoy helping them. Sometimes it's just sending encouraging texts or checking in with phone calls to see how they're doing. Other times, I offer suggestions and pass along the things I've learned, such as [when dealing with a craving] using the 'Five Ds: Delay, Drink (water), Do Something Else, Deep Breathing, and Discuss (thoughts and feelings with your supports).'"

Stacey said that she would like to see the program grow and reach more expectant mothers. "So many people from the health community came together for this one purpose, to help women quit smoking. And it's great to see it when they do break the cycle of addiction and make a healthier life for themselves and their babies."

Expectant mothers can sign up to participate in the program through Oswego County OB-GYN or through OCO Options. They begin by answering a survey about their smoking habits to create a baseline comparison for their progress. They meet with a counselor to discuss their history, care plan and set realistic goals.

"The women themselves lead this program," said Shumway, a nurse with Oswego County OB/GYN. "They have to be honest with themselves about their goals and needs, and that determines how often we meet and what supports will work best for them."

Participants receive stop-smoking education and counseling, preventative aids, and peer support. Sessions are scheduled with their regular pre-natal appointments or through OPTIONS during their home visits. Each session includes a breath test to determine their smoking status. For each month that a participant remains smoke-free, she will receive up to $25 worth of diapers.

Jordan Clark is another participant in the program. She said, "We love the diaper incentive. They are a great quality and the amount we get has been enough to where we've only had to buy diapers a couple of times. We have saved a ton of money and being smoke-free has been amazing!"

Shumway agrees. "The most effective technique to help stop smoking is the use of incentives," said Shumway. These, when combined with clinical intervention and monitoring, pregnancy-specific supports, and peer educators, have all contributed to the success of the program. We've also received great feedback from the participants themselves, which will help us adjust and make improvements to the program to ensure its continued success and growth."

She added, "One result of this program is its ability to affect change in families and groups. Those at home are influenced by a woman's choice to quit smoking, whether it's a show of support, like going outside to smoke, or it's making their own decision to quit. The women bring home all of the information, tools and supports that they're learning from their experience and that benefits the whole family."

Linda Eagan is the administrator for the "Smoke Free For My Baby and Me" program. "Pregnancy is an excellent opportunity for women to stop smoking and this program helps them achieve their goals and maintain good health habits that are so important to their well-being and the health of their babies," she said.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang agrees. "Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are known health hazards and this program helps promote good health for expectant mothers and, by association, their children, partners and extended families," said Huang.

The network of public health partners that worked with the Oswego County Health Department to create this program includes Oswego County OB/GYN; Reach CNY; Oswego Health; Oswego County Opportunities OPTIONS (Maternal and Infant Health Program); Rural Health Network; Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Services; and Integrated Community Planning's Tobacco Free Network.

The Tobacco Cessation Center at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse was instrumental in providing training and SUNY Oswego collaborated with the group to conduct research and analysis of the program.

In addition to the partners' in-kind contributions, the program also received funding through a grant from the New York State Health Foundation. Additional support comes from the Integrated Community Planning' Tobacco Free Network; The Elks Lodge Foundation; Excellus BlueCross BlueShield; Fidelis Care; Rural Health Network of Oswego County; The Shineman Foundation; and United Way of Greater Oswego County.

If you or someone you know is interested in quitting smoking, call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit https://www.nysmokefree.com. For more information about the "Smoke Free for My Baby and Me" program, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547, Oswego County OB/GYN at 343-2590, or OCO OPTIONS at 342-7532.

CHECKING IN - Selena Stacey and her son Anthony meet with Amber Shumway after her regular doctor appointment. Selena is one of more than 30 women who have volunteered to participate in the innovative program, "Smoke Free for My Baby and Me," which is aimed at reducing smoking rates among pregnant women through clinic-based best practices, peer support, monitoring and incentives such as free diapers.

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