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For Smokers, 'A Springboard to New Life'

December 01, 2016

UKanQuit celebrates a decade of helping patients kick the habit

Kansas City, Kan. — It's been 10 years since The University of Kansas Hospital and University of Kansas Medical Center went smoke-free throughout their campus.

That same year, the two organizations developed a pioneering program called UKanQuit to help inpatients kick the habit. The patients were a captive audience, after all, no longer able to smoke on hospital premises.

It was a stroke of genius. Since then, UKanQuit counselors have treated more than 13,700 patients, or about 100 a month. Patients receive counseling at the hospital bedside or soon after discharge, boosting their six-month quit rate to 30 percent. By comparison, about 6 percent of all smokers across the U.S. quit in a given year, although seven out of 10 say they want to.

The UKanQuit partnership between the medical center and hospital "has been immensely effective – and in many ways unmatched anywhere in the country," said Kimber Richter, PhD, MPH, UKanQuit director and professor in Preventive Medicine and Public Health.

"Because of the hospital's commitment," she added, "our counselors have been welcomed as full members of the treatment team, ensuring patients get quick access to medications and counseling."

In addition to helping patients quit smoking, the program was an important factor in The University of Kansas Cancer Center's application this year for National Cancer Institute's comprehensive status.

The program also has generated $6 million in grant funding, some of it used to test methods of treating hospitalized smokers across Kansas, and it has led to nine research articles in peer-reviewed publications.

UKanQuit has evolved during those 10 years, Richter notes. For instance, the program is collaborating more with hospital pharmacists at the nursing units to increase use of patches and other medications for patients at discharge, which can double or triple the quit rate.

Another reason for its success: Counselors have become very skilled at building rapport with patients at the bedside. Explained Richter, "We really try to use their hospitalization as a springboard to start a whole new life."

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