Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Transforming the nation one community at a time

Arriving at Huston-Tilloston University to talk to faculty and staff about implementing a tobacco-free policy, Phillip Huang was met by a security guard smoking a cigarette.

Just a few months later, that same guard had quit smoking and was one of the most outspoken supporters of the campus-wide tobacco ban.

The Austin, Texas, school’s comprehensive tobacco-free policy was just one of many heartening success stories shared during today’s session on “Early Lessons Learned from Community Transformation Grants Communities.” APHA is one of three national organizations working to support projects funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants, which are aimed at preventing chronic disease by reducing tobacco use, improving healthy eating and physical activity, and widening access to preventive services such as cancer screenings. The grants where created via the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Huang, medical director of Austin/Travis County Health & Human Services' Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, shared the road to putting tobacco-free campus policies in place at two other Austin area schools. The process at the University of Texas, for example, started with a student resolution that asked the school administration to enforce a tobacco-free campus within seven years. 

Then, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas adopted a policy that anyone receiving their grant funding (including the University of Texas) had to have a tobacco-free policy. Effective April 9, the campus became mostly tobacco-free. Designated smoking areas will be eliminated at the end of February 2013.

“You have to treat these campaigns almost like a political campaign and be ready to be nimble and respond to whatever is happening,” Huang said.

Other examples of the transformation grants in action: In Bernalillo County, N.M., a new database of existing policies on topics like tobacco-free spaces and built environments that supports active living has been set up to help identify where gaps exist. And in Maryland, work already has resulted in tobacco-free policies in apartment buildings, among other successes.

Learn more about what’s working well and the pitfalls to avoid during a Community Transformation Grant networking session today from 6:30–7:30 p.m. in the Mix and Mingle Lounge in Moscone Convention Center South.

There won't be any food at tonight's session, but there will be “a lot of really great conversation because we’re all doing really great work,” said Shawn McIntosh, APHA’s project coordinator for the Community Transformation Grants. “One of the best things we can do is talk to each other about all the wonderful things we are doing so we can learn from each other.”

— D.C.

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