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Shelina Foderingham

Director, Practice Improvement, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Call to Action: Join the National Behavioral Health Network for Tobacco & Cancer Control

June 19, 2014 | Tobacco and Smoking | Comments
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Did you know lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of both men and women in the United States and is the most preventable? Smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer – both in smokers and individuals exposed to secondhand smoke. By quitting smoking, an individual’s risk for dying from lung cancer is lowered, yet smoking rates remain disproportionately higher among certain populations – namely people with serious mental illnesses and addictions. Of the 440,000 annual tobacco-related deaths in the U.S., half are among people with a behavioral health disorder. SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality report shows that smoking among adults with serious psychological distress did not significantly decline between 1977 and 2011 (43.6% in 1977 and 42.1% in 2011). Whereas the general population’s rate of smoking significantly decreased from 34.1% in 1977 to 19.0% in 2011.

Unless we begin to target our public health and clinical interventions to this population, these disparities will only worsen. Our responsibility as behavioral health professionals, consumers, and advocates is to ensure that all people – regardless of their race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or mental or emotional status – are afforded the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives.

What steps can each of us take to eliminate this disparity?

The passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act provides us with opportunities to coordinate delivery of services across specialties. And for the first time ever, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified behavioral health as a priority population and funded the National Council to establish the National Behavioral Health Network for Tobacco and Cancer Control. Over the coming year, through the Network, we will work with community mental health and substance use treatment organizations, public health agencies, and other stakeholders to provide you with resources and CALL YOU TO ACTION to reduce the tobacco and cancer rates among people with behavioral health conditions. I encourage you to join us in this exciting effort and Become a National Behavioral Health Network Participant. And visit our webpage to learn more about cancer and tobacco use among this population.

What barriers, obstacles, and gaps are you seeing in your state or community to preventing and reducing tobacco use and cancer rates among behavioral health populations? Let us know – send your comments to Shelina Foderingham, Director of Practice Improvement.

And stay tuned next week for Nina Marshall, Director of Public Policy, in detailing coverage of tobacco cessation services under Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplace plans.