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Published on January 13, 2014

Committee unveils holistic approach to curbing tobacco use on campus

A forthcoming initiative by an anti-tobacco leadership team seeks to put more teeth into the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s existing no-smoking policy.

The multidisciplinary Use of Tobacco Products on Campus Advisory Committee will soon launch a strategy to better maintain procedures that, for many institutions across the nation with similar policies, have been difficult to enforce.

According to Michael Estes, chief human resources officer who chairs the committee, a more holistic approach will be implemented at UMMC to help guide individuals who struggle with the strict anti-tobacco policy to more healthful solutions.

“The whole focus of this effort is to put a lot of energy into communication, education and available resources,” said Estes, “but, if needed, we’re going to manage enforcement more than ever before.”

The Medical Center’s ban on tobacco dates back to January 2007, when, as part of a broader Mississippi Hospital Association initiative, UMMC became the first Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning member to receive the state’s official tobacco-free campus designation.

But Estes said the designation failed to get a lot of traction and the Medical Center’s policy floundered fairly quickly.

“Over the years, we continued to have violations of the policy by employees, staff, patients and visitors,” he said.

A little more than a year ago, Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs, urged the formation of the advisory committee to develop a framework by which the institution could better address violations of the policy. Consisting of institutional leaders from a cross-section of Medical Center departments and representatives from the Mississippi State Department of Health, the committee suggested a four-pronged approach endorsed by Keeton that is designed to stem the tide of tobacco on campus:

•  Communication
Physical Facilities will place new signage around the Medical Center campus to notify patients and visitors of the institution’s anti-tobacco policy.

Public Affairs also will periodically use internal communications vehicles, such as the Intranet News Feed and its This Week at UMMC e-newsletter, to remind UMMC employees of the policy.

•  Education
Dr. Karen Crews, professor of dentistry, and Dr. Tom Payne, professor of otolaryngology and communicative sciences, have worked in tandem with the UMMC Tobacco-free Initiative to develop and implement a comprehensive training program for medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing and health related professions staff, residents and student health-care providers on the UMMC campus.

Crews said the education component consists of evidence-based training in the treatment of tobacco dependence that includes brief intervention, motivational interviewing and pharmacotherapy.

“Plans are to collaborate with the UMMC health professions schools to ensure that students obtain the skills needed to treat tobacco-using patients prior to entering the work force,” Crews said.

In addition to the training, Crews and Payne have met with hospital administrators to assist with planning for the implementation of the Joint Commission core measure “Treatment of Tobacco Dependence.” They also have received funding from the health department to provide resources for the program and tobacco education materials to be distributed on campus.

Crews said a full-time tobacco treatment specialist will be hired to assist with inpatient consultation for tobacco-using patients.

“The effort is ongoing and will result in a healthier campus, city and state as UMMC leads the way for other hospitals to comprehensively address the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in Mississippi,” she said.   
 
•  Resources

Located in the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center, the ACT Center continues to be the primary tobacco cessation resource for the institution. Primarily funded by the Mississippi State Legislature and the Mississippi State Department of Health, the center offers state-of-the-art treatments to help individuals who use tobacco achieve long-term abstinence. 

•  Enforcement
For the first time at UMMC, tobacco “monitors” will engage violators of the anti-tobacco policy and offer tobacco-cessation resources. They will distribute information about nicotine replacement products and other available alternatives to tobacco use.

“Their first interaction will be to walk up to violators and respectfully remind them that we are a tobacco-free campus,” Estes said. “They will ask the violators to extinguish their cigarette, and we’re trusting that they will be compliant.”

Although the monitors will patrol the entire campus, they will concentrate on those areas where tobacco use has been known to occur. Should the monitors encounter belligerent violators of the policy, Estes said they will have the authority to contact Campus Police to handle the matter.

Should the violators be Medical Center employees, Estes said the institution’s progressive discipline approach will be used to ensure compliance.

“It’s our hope that people will understand we really are serious about this, and we’ll see a shift in the culture here on our campus,” Estes said.

The advisory committee’s recommendations don’t end with an internal approach to anti-tobacco policy enforcement. Estes said early this year, Medical Center leaders will join representatives from the health department, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Mississippi Baptist Medical Center and St. Dominic Hospital to negotiate with the Jackson City Council a modification of an existing ordinance that would create “smoke-free” zones around all three hospitals that would extend 50 yards beyond their property lines.

The ordinance also would grant UMMC Campus Police officers the authority to issue citations to individuals who violate the Medical Center’s anti-tobacco policy.

“We feel we have a pretty compelling argument,” Estes said. “It would allow us to authorize our police department to give citations to people who are smoking on the sidewalks outside the hospital.

“With the coalition we have supporting this revision, we think it will make it almost impossible for the city council not to modify the ordinance.”