PINEHURST – In 2001, FirstHealth Community Health Services received a grant that made an important change in the department, as well as in the communities it serves.
Using funds from the national tobacco industry settlement, the American Legacy Foundation grant allowed the department to develop quit-tobacco classes to be offered through local provider offices and worksites.
In 2003, as FirstHealth prepared to take all of its campuses tobacco-free, the quit-tobacco program officially became known as FirstQuit.
The program offered support groups, medication assistance and group classes and was eventually opened up to participants in the general community beyond provider referrals and worksites. The result was a program that focused on each FirstQuit participant and his or her unique quitting experience.
Today, FirstHealth Community Health Services has four health educators with national certifications as tobacco treatment specialists. Three were trained by the Mayo Clinic, and one earned her certification from the University of Massachusetts.
The passion to mentor, train and support the communities these educators serve radiates throughout the Community Health Services building, becoming the reason the FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary has decided to recognize the FirstQuit program.
This year, the proceeds from the Auxiliary’s annual Holiday Ball will support the development of FirstHealth’s latest FirstQuit program. FirstQuit for Teens is a tobacco-cessation program for youth.
“We chose to honor Community Health Services’ FirstQuit for Teens program, because we felt that the services offered encompass every part of the medical system,” says Auxiliary Chair Julie Martin. “All doctors are affected by smoking – from different types of cancers like mouth and lung cancers to heart disease. Smoking as we know it has changed. While teens still smoke cigarettes, many use a form of smokeless tobacco and do not realize that it is just as harmful to their health. It is our duty to educate and help prevent them from smoking, and we are ready to ask a wide range of people to help support this cause.”
"What a great opportunity for FirstHealth Community Health Services, the FirstQuit program and most importantly the teens in Moore County,” says Chris Miller, administrative director of FirstHealth Community Health Services. “We’ve had many years of success providing cessation services for adults and tobacco-use prevention programs for teenagers. A gap in our services was the provision of cessation services for teens. The Auxiliary, through the Ball, has provided a great opportunity to kick- start the effort. The FirstQuit team is ready to get started.”
Over the years, the FirstQuit program has received numerous requests from pediatricians, school counselors and even teens themselves for tobacco-cessation resources.
“Unfortunately, there are no local resources for teens who are looking to quit like there are for adults,” says Melissa Kuhn, health education specialist and certified tobacco treatment specialist.
A 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for North Carolina found that one in four high school seniors had smoked cigarettes and one in nine had used a form of smokeless tobacco in the previous month. The survey also showed that almost 50 percent of current smokers had tried quitting in the previous year.
“Quitting smoking is not easy,” Kuhn says. “It’s a process; there are many steps. We have to educate these youth and walk them through what will happen when they quit.”
FirstQuit for Teens will provide comprehensive and personalized cessation services, much like FirstQuit. However, these services will be tailored to teens.
“Our goal is to utilize youth tobacco-users to find out what they will participate in and what they want,” says Kuhn. “We hope to provide peer-to-peer support on local school campuses, face-to-face counseling, quit kits to help them keep busy when the urge to smoke hits, and modern technology options like text messaging and Web-based programs.”
Guidance for the program could come from various school and community networks including school nurses, coaches, counselors and in-school suspension coordinators as well as local physician offices.
“It is our hope that the community can assist our FirstQuit team in promoting and implementing the FirstQuit for Teens program,” says Roxanne Elliott, policy director for FirstHealth Community Health Services.
According to Kuhn, the teenage population is overlooked when it comes to cessation services. Like the initial development of FirstQuit, FirstQuit for Teens is designed to exist indefinitely, increasing the opportunity to help many generations to come.
“This program will place FirstHealth in the forefront of North Carolina,” Kuhn says. “FirstQuit for Teens will allow us to do something that hasn’t been done before. Without the Auxiliary’s support, we would not have this opportunity.”
What: FirstHealth Moore Regional Auxiliary Ball
When: Friday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Carolina Ballroom, Pinehurst
Why: To support the development of FirstQuit for Teens, a tobacco-cessation program targeting the youth of Moore County
For ticket information, please call (910) 695-7510