Monday, April 25, 2016

Tailoring Smoking Cessation Outreach: Specialty Tools of Smokefree.gov and an Innovative Study in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities

by Katy Henke

A new study sheds some light on strategies that may help smokers in under-researched communities take steps to quit. Recently, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis led a study that looked at the potential impact that graphic cigarette labels might have in sparking social interaction around smoking cessation in American Indian/Alaska Natives communities. Published in BMJ Open, the study focused on how individuals perceived graphic warning labels on cigarettes and found that participants who saw graphic images were more likely to approach a friend or family member and discuss the idea of quitting smoking. Images that portrayed children or the physical harms of smoking drew the most reaction from participants.
Sample graphic warning labels (Used with author permission) 

This was the first study of its kind to focus on cigarette labels and their potential impact within the American Indian/Alaska Natives communities, where rates of smoking are around double that of the general population. Future research will be able to build on these findings and further explore ways to bolster cessation efforts and help lower rates of smoking in these communities.

Quitting smoking is still the number one way to improve overall health, and, increasingly, efforts that promote prevention and cessation can now be effectively tailored to meet the needs and concerns of specific populations.

A number of tailored cessation programs are offered through the federal government's site, Smokefree.gov. In addition to the site's free telephone counseling at 1-800-QUIT-NOW and text message program, smokefreetxt, it offers a number of specialty websites, including:

smokefreeVET: Focuses on why many veterans begin smoking, how and why to quit smoking, and how to transition back into the civilian lifestyle while quitting. 
smokefreeWomen: Addresses the unique concerns of women who are considering or trying to quit smoking. The smokefreeMOM text messaging specifically helps pregnant women with quitting. 
smokefreeTeen: Provides information to teenagers about the importance of choosing to quit and/or staying smoke free. The site focuses on both the immediate and long term impact of smoking on the health and lifestyle of teens.  
smokefreeEspa├▒ol: Provides culturally appropriate tips and advice in Spanish on how to prepare for and begin quitting smoking.

Smokefree.gov also has a strong presence on social media that continually offers advice and education information about the benefits of quitting.

Other health resources with information on smoking and its impact on health and wellness: 
8 Ways to Prevent Cancer and Stay Healthy: This website highlights ways to lower your risk of certain cancers, including advice for quitting smoking.

Your Disease Risk: An interactive online tool designed to estimate your risk of important chronic diseases, which also offers personalized information about reducing your risk.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keeping "Your Disease Risk" Up to Date: Cancer Science Review and Plans for a Responsive Design

Since January of 2000, our website, Your Disease Risk, has reached millions of visitors with
personalized risk estimates and prevention messages for the most important preventable chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and others.

Based on feedback from both health professionals and the public, much of the appeal of the the Your Disease Risk site is its unique approach that  successfully meshes up-to-date science with engaging messages and an easy-to-navigate interface.

To maintain this important balance, the site has been through a number of programming updates and science reviews since its launch -- the most recent of which looked at the Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes tools and saw the launch of a new chronic bronchitis and emphysema tool.

Starting in 2015, we began the large task of reviewing and updating the science that drives the 12 different cancer tools on the site.   With a science panel consisting of leaders in cancer and nutritional epidemiology, a consensus-based approach will be adopted to identify any necessary changes to the risk factors used in each cancer risk estimate -- as well as to the prevention messages that go along with them.

Among others, a sample of risk factor and messaging issues that will be reviewed in detail in this science update include:
Breast cancer risk
  • Weight/adiposity in youth/young adulthood
  • Mammographic density
  • Alcohol use in youth/young adulthood 
Cervical cancer risk 
    • HPV vaccination
     Colon cancer risk 
      • Processed meat 
      Ovarian cancer risk 
        • Talc use
        Prostate cancer risk 
        • New focus on advanced prostate cancer

        In concert with this science review are plans to optimize the site for mobile viewing by updating the appearance and overall design of Your Disease Risk so that it works seamlessly across all platforms - notebooks, tablets, and smartphones.

        The science review is expected to be completed by summer 2016, with updates to the site launched later in the year or early 2017.