While November 17 marks the 36th annual “Great Smoke-Out” across the country, for the Neighborhood Health Clinic it represents an opportunity to give patients confidence in all areas of a person’s life.
If you can stop smoking, you can develop the strength to begin and maintain an all-encompassing healthy lifestyle. “Quitting smoking is the most important thing that patients can do for their health,” said Dr. Robert Morantz.
Morantz, a neurosurgeon who became a medical volunteer at the Clinic since his retirement, was on the organization’s board in 2008 when it made sure the clinic looked forward in patients’ medical care and not just immediate concerns. “We were not really doing much in the area of preventing illness before then,” said Morantz. “We absolutely had to have a smoking cessation program.”
“It is opening a door into the healthy lifestyle that is helping them to overrule their negative behavior,” said Jane Johanas, the program coordinator for “Quit Smoking Now!” at the Clinic. “It adds a whole new dimension to their personality.”
The Clinic requires all its patients who smoke to take a series of classes called “Quit Smoking Now!” It is six one-hour classes that patients must complete to maintain eligibility at the Clinic. Originally the Clinic offered meeting room space for the sessions which was funded through the settlement with tobacco companies. Now the class has become a joint program between the Neighborhood Health Clinic and the Everglades Area Health Education Center (EAHEC) with program materials including nicotine gum funded from the settlement and a volunteer teacher provided through the Clinic.
Asia Rial Elsbree began volunteer work at the clinic as a translator for Hispanic patients. With a master’s degree in adult education, she enjoys teaching how to have a healthy lifestyle. So the call for a volunteer to take over the teaching of the “Quit Smoking Now!” program left an opportunity for Elsbree. After training with the EAHEC, she began teaching classes this year.
“Smoking is not who they are. It is their addiction.” Just calling it a “bad habit” doesn’t convey the problem”, adds Elsbree. “Such a term sugarcoats and weakens the overall message.”
The program works on areas such as setting a specific day for to quit smoking to suggestions such as removing all smoking devices and ashtrays from a smoker’s residence or using cinnamon sticks as a substitute for a cigarette.
Also, the class debunks myths, such as “cutting back” on the number of cigarettes smoked each day will help. In addition the class discusses basic strategy such as not putting yourself into a smoking situation.
The class agenda is as follows:
Weeks 1 and 2:
The first two weeks of the program are designed to help the participants prepare for their Quit Date. They will learn how to identify triggers, look at the long-term effects of smoking, analyze their tobacco usage, discuss the right nicotine replacement therapies for them, discuss challenges, and pick a Quit Date.
Quit Date! Participants will learn how to cope with withdrawal in a supportive and safe environment as well as discuss alternatives to using tobacco products.
Week 4 is designed for relapse prevention. Participants will discuss triggers, managing stress and lifestyle changes.
In week 5 the participants will develop a plan for living without tobacco. Members start to recognize the benefit of proper nutrition and exercise as tools to maintain a smoke- free lifestyle.
Participants discuss and celebrate all they have accomplished in just 6 short weeks! They will review the techniques they have utilized to quit smoking, acknowledge the rewards of quitting, and learn of relapse support opportunities.