Fall 2004

H e a l t h   P r o m o t i o n
Physician referrals to Smokers’ Helpline to triple number of people helped
The physician fax referral program to the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association’s Smokers’ Helpline doubled caller volume since it was launched this past spring.

     The physician fax referral program to the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association’s Smokers’ Helpline doubled caller volume since it was launched this past spring and Helpline Coordinator Niki George expects the number to triple through this fall and winter.
     “Summer is typically a very slow time for the Helpline, but thanks to physician referrals our calls have actually doubled,” said George. “We expect to triple caller volume through this fall and winter and be assisting more smokers than ever in quitting.”
     While the program has only been in operation for six months, its success has resulted in the Smokers’ Helpline obtaining additional funding from Health Canada. Provinces such as Ontario are also considering piloting such a program and are currently in consultation with Helpline staff to share information and best practices.
     NLMA President Dr. Andrew Major noted that more than 100 physicians are actively participating in the referral program and more than 500 patients are receiving counseling and support to quit smoking.
     “I know just how busy my colleagues are — this simple fax-back referral program is easily integrated into a busy practice and gives physicians an effective and efficient way to deliver health promotion and intervention services to our patients,” said Dr. Major.
     “Every day, the counselors with the Helpline receive numerous referrals and every day more new physicians are making those referrals. We anticipate that our participation rates will continue to climb and more and more of our patients will get the help they need to quit smoking,” Dr. Major concluded.
     The referral program was recently named the Community Awareness and Referral Effort or CARE and George highlighted the reasons she thinks it has been so successful.
     “CARE is an extremely effective way of reaching smokers. Over 70 per cent of smokers see their family physician once a year, creating a huge window of opportunity to reach the population of people we are working for,” she said. “As well, the program assists physicians in their work in tobacco control.”
     George noted that the program is very cost effective. “While our personnel costs have increased due to the increase in caller volume, the cost of marketing, promotion and materials is dramatically reduced. The CARE program does not require costly TV or radio advertisements to promote the program. Advertising this program is a result of great community partnerships.”
     Finally, George said the program builds upon and strengthens community partnerships in tobacco control. “The CARE program demonstrates that the Medical Association and Lung Association CARE about smokers, their health, and the health and well-being of their families.”
     George said that as a result of the success of the program, the Helpline will be meeting with other health providers such as nurses, social workers, pharmacists and dentists to implement similar referral systems.


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