A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Breathe Easy — really — by helping to reduce smoking to BUILD better health; it’s a challenge

A collaborative group of local entities are continuing their partnership with the BUILD Health Challenge to effect change related to smoking in the city of Covington and Gallatin County.

After a successful program launched in 2018 where more than 1,200 Covington and Gallatin County residents visited local pharmacies to take advantage of free nicotine replacement therapy kits (patches), the group is now launching an effort to provide additional resources and raise awareness about the true cost of smoking in their communities.

The initiative is a partnership between the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance,
St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Interact for Health, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Three Rivers District Health Department, and The Center for Great Neighborhoods, with major funding support coming through a grant from the BUILD Health Challenge – a national program that utilizes community partnerships to improve health and wellness.

“Smoking rates in Covington are nearly 37% and over 35% in Gallatin County, and in both areas smoking-related illnesses are the leading cause of premature death,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health – Northern Kentucky Health Department.

“And high smoking rates mean more secondhand smoke is being produced which has a verifiable impact on the increase in heart and lung disease in our communities.”

The high smoking rates are not only a leading cause of death, they put the region at an economic disadvantage as well. In Kentucky alone, the impact on taxes for smokers (an average of $1,116 annually per household) and increased health care costs ($1.92 billion) are staggering.

“It has been documented that high smoking rates cost businesses in Kentucky nearly $2.8 billion annually due to loss of worker productivity,” said Karen Finan, President and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance. “Our communities must be strong and vibrant so that all workers, residents, and visitors can breathe easy.”

As a part of this campaign an Enhanced Pharmacy program is being offered by local pharmacies including Ruwe (Covington and Latonia), Blanks, Save Discount Drugs, St. Elizabeth Edgewood Pharmacy, and Beringer Pharmacy in Gallatin County. This program provides individuals who currently smoke with access to a pharmacist who can help them develop a plan to help them quit.

Additionally, emphasis is being placed on the Fresh Start program, a free 4-week smoking cessation program developed by the American Cancer Society and offered by St.Elizabeth Healthcare.

“We are committed to leading the Northern Kentucky region to become one of the healthiest communities in America. Unfortunately, Kentucky has the highest rates in the nation in both smoking and cancer deaths. With Covington and Gallatin County being part of our service area, we want to do everything possible to decrease these rates,” stated Garren Colvin, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

“With our Fresh Start program and with access to our pharmacists, St. Elizabeth can help provide the resources necessary to help smokers quit for good.”

This “Breathe Easy” campaign is building on the success of last year’s program and encourages smokers and non-smokers alike to become “Breathe Easy Believers,” supporting efforts to reduce smoking and secondhand smoke in our communities. The campaign also features video testimonials from real Breathe Easy Believers – local residents whose lives have been adversely impacted by smoking.

Two websites have been developed to provide access to the videos as well as a place where consumers can sign up to become Breathe Easy Believers. Those sites are – www.breatheeasycovington.org and www.breatheeasygallatin.org.

The BUILD partnership is comprised of the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Interact for Health, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Three Rivers District Health Department, and The Center for Great Neighborhoods.

These organizations work together, with guidance from BUILD advisors, to identify and implement innovative solutions to community challenges. Matching funds from St. Elizabeth Healthcare, combined with BUILD’s $231,056 two-year grant from the BUILD Health Challenge, will further extend the partnership’s capacity to help reduce smoking rates in Covington and Gallatin County.

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