No one can deny that tobacco use is one of our biggest public-health issues and that healthcare practitioners need to do all they can to help cut it down.
“I tell our physicians that discussing smoking cessation with their patients may be the most important conversation of their patients’ lives,” said Dr. Walter Woodley, who practices at the Kingston Family Health Center and is regional medical director for the Institute for Family Health (IFH). The IFH, along with Hudson River Health Care (HRHC), which serves residents of Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan counties, plus Peekskill and parts of Long Island, are local centers that offer health care — primary and preventive care with access to pharmacy, dental and mental-health services — to low-income and underserved New Yorkers of any insurance status, whether they are able to pay or not.
Tobacco use is much higher in low-income and underserved communities than in the general population, according to the state health department’s Bureau of Tobacco Control, with 26.7 percent of Medicaid recipients and 21.8 percent of uninsured adults being smokers compared to 12.1 percent of adults with private insurance.
The local health centers address this priority when they interface with patients. The IFH, established in 1979 to address a shortage in the mid-Hudson region, now trains 30 physicians a year in a residency training program in family medicine, Dr. Woodley said. Integrating smoking cessation into the primary-care visit when needed is key.
Though a state smoking ban in restaurants and bars a decade ago and other measures have helped bring numbers of smokers down by 28 percent, more than 25,000 state residents still die each year because of smoking. The leading cause of death for New Yorkers is cardiovascular disease, and smoking contributes to much of that.