A total of $15 million will be split between Tennessee’s 95 counties over the course of three years. Bradley County received $75,753 for its first year in the program. A total of $227,259 will have been awarded to the county by the end of the three-year period.
The state health department challenged every county to create a project which would address one or more of the following health-related issues: eliminating smoking during pregnancy; reducing infants’ and children’s exposure to second-hand smoke; and preventing child and tobacco use.
Bradley County Health Department director Eloise Waters said a team of volunteers from Cleveland State Community College, the county and city school systems’ Coordinated School Health offices, the community, the local health department and the regional health department office brainstormed ideas and drafted the grant.
The committee agreed upon three programs: Baby and Me, for pregnant mothers who need incentive to quit smoking; Gold Sneakers, a state initiative to encourage physical activity and nutrition among children through licensed child-care facilities; and the Michigan model to be utilized by Coordinated School Health in both county and city schools.
“Everything we’ve done is what they call ‘best practice,’” Waters said. “[The committee] looked at programs all over states that have received good results, just like Baby and Me, which has a 60-something percent success rate. We went with the ones that had the best success rates.”
Money from the settlement turned into a three-year reoccurring grant offered through the state health department. The decision was made based on the state’s “high rate of tobacco use.” The hope is the distribution of $15 million over three years will help prevent expensive tobacco-related medical costs.
Students from Cleveland State’s nursing program have already encouraged local childcare facilities to participate in the Golden Sneakers program. Roughly 45 students have agreed to handle the project.
Children who live in a household with a smoker often have more ear infections and tend to develop early asthma issues.
Baby and Me encourages pregnant women with a smoking habit to quit. Each participant referred to the program undergoes four prenatal cessation counseling sessions, support and monitoring for carbon monoxide.
Mothers return for monthly appointments after the birth of their child. According to the official website, she receives a monthly $25 voucher for diapers up to 6 to 12 months postpartum.
According to Glenn Czarnecki, Southeast regional director of the Tennessee Health Department, pregnant mothers who smoke are more likely to have premature and low-birth weight babies. The average childbirth without any complications costs about $3,000 to $5,000. Hospital fees for a premature baby can run upward of $70,000.
Waters explained mothers are asked at their child’s birth whether or not they smoke. If applicable, they are also asked how long they have smoked. The local and state health departments will look at the information over the next three to five years to see if the campaign has helped.
Waters added, “Everything is going to be measureable” with the settlement money
Nurse supervisor Roxanne Wooten explained the Baby and Me program is for the benefit of the child.
“It is trying to get things early on. Some of our dedicated smokers, our older smokers, research has shown it is very difficult to impact their decision making,” she said. “We are trying to [positively influence people] very, very early on and focus our energy and resources in that direction.”
Additional care will be given to young students through the application of the Michigan model at the two local school systems.
Tobacco Prevention Counselor Linda Avila said all three programs are important in stopping interest in tobacco and tobacco products before it begins in the lives of youth.
“If you can get them at that age, and if you can continue to educate them, then hopefully they will decide they don’t want to start,” she said. “If you never start, then you don’t have to worry about the disease and the problems you are going to have later on in life.”