State grant helps Columbus health partners battle tobacco addiction

A smoker (file photo)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Thursday is the Great American Smoke out and the battle with tobacco addiction is being aided by a state grant from the Ohio Department of Health of $523,434 for three years, to Franklin County Health and their partners.

The eight partners are targeting certain groups of smokers, like pregnant women, those deemed low socioeconomic status and others with mental illnesses.

A doctor at the head of community health centers said 67 percent of their clients are on Medicaid and 47 percent of them are smokers.

“The reason we are so worried about smoking is it is it is the best known cause of shortening life spans that exists. And it is also the best known direct cause of chronic diseases that we are trying to address,” said Ted Wymyslo, MD.

Partner agencies include: Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority; Columbus Public Health; Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus; Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity; Ohio Association of Community Health Centers; and The Breathing Association.

Franklin and adjacent counties have the second highest adult tobacco use rate in the state at 24.3 percent, said Joe Mazzola, Franklin County Health Commissioner.

The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority is putting the final touches on the Poindexter housing complex between Mt. Vernon and Long Streets, one of their goal is to help smokers on their properties quit.

“The addiction to cigarette smoking is insane! It is very intense, it is very hard to quit,” said Aaron Schopp.

Schopp said he quit smoking last August after 15 years. He is also the Communications Manager for the CMHA, where smoking will be banned on public housing property in 2018.

“It is very expensive, but it also controls how you live your life,” said Schopp.

Sonja Nelson with CMHA said the Community Cessation Initiative is meant to help not punish smokers.

“We do recognize the health benefits of not smoking and we want our residents to be healthy in their homes,” Nelson said.

Dr. Mymyslo with the statewide federally-funded community health centers said nearly two thirds of their patients are on Medicaid and nearly half of them smoke.

Federally qualified health center we have to be in medically-underserved areas.

“We are really targeting if we can those patients living in under-served areas to get that smoking rate down.” Doctor Wymyslo said.

County health officials said the long-term objective of the grant is to increase by 15 percent the number of tobacco users that attempt to quit.

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