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New Tobacco Coordinator Works to Improve Health Education

Brooke Burger

Photo by Eric Bell
Tobacco Coordinator - Caroline Selby, energetic and optimistic, works in the Administration Building on campus, though her main office is located at the Drew County Health Department.

   While 5,200 Arkansans die every year from causes related to smoking, one Southeast Arkansas native made it her mission to improve the health of Arkansans through education, support and hard work.

   Hired as the University of Arkansas at Monticello's new Community Tobacco Program Coordinator in July 2007, Caroline Selby, known as Carrie to some, said she looks for any opportunity to provide people with health education.

   "Knowing that you can make a difference even in one person's life (is the best part of the job)," Selby said.

   At a young age, Selby came face to face with dangers of smoking when her mother contracted pneumonia. Unable to battle the disease because she smoked for several years, Selby's mother died at the age of 42. Only about 10 years of age, Selby saw the grim realities of tobacco and, though possibly unaware at the time, set out on a course to prevent others from experiencing the same loss.

   "If I can change that for one person or one family," she said, "then, it's worth it."

   Selby worked with Arkansas Health Department in Little Rock prior to moving to Crossett, where she currently lives with her husband and two children, ages 12 and 8.  Selby said she wanted to move to a smaller area in order to focus her attention on helping a specific region.

   Before coming to work for UAM and the Drew County Hometown Health Improvement Coalition, Selby provided community health education to seven counties. Selby worked for the Arkansas Department of Health for six years before she decided to move to a smaller area where she could have more time for her family.

   "I wanted to be closer to home," Selby said.

   Born and raised in Bradley County, Selby graduated from Warren High School and attended UAM. Since she moved back to the Southeast Arkansas region, Selby revived her higher education goals by enrolling in UAM again. While pursuing a degree in Speech Communications, Selby gives back to the community through her job at UAM and the Drew County Hometown Health Improvement Coalition.

   As Tobacco Program Coordinator, Selby focuses on improving health lifestyles and education in Drew County.  She does so with a community-based grant funded through the Arkansas Department of Health. The two-year grant provided over $66,000 this year.

   With the help of funding, Selby works to build collaborative events in the community and provides health education, prevention and cessation programs, as well as working with local industries and businesses to provide employees with health education, tobacco awareness and cessation programs.

   Selby's passion for her job shows, not only through her energetic approach to her work, but through her children as well. Even at the age of 2, Selby's daughter knew smoking was harmful. When Selby's nephew visited the family, her daughter would shout out "stamp out smoking" any time she saw him with a cigarette.

   Through the Drew County Hometown Health Improvement Coalition, Selby works to provide the entire Drew County community with the same tobacco education she provided her children.  The Coalition has provided Drew County with six to seven years of preventative health education on issues such as chronic diseases and tobacco use and prevention.  The grant also provided the Coalition the opportunity to provide education and prevention for alcohol-related crashes.

   Through UAM, Selby works with Administration and other faculty to provide health education to the campus community. This month, Selby, Student Health Director Terri Richardson and Director of Intramurals and Recreation Julie Gentry will work through several programs at the University.

   "The campus has already made great strides," Selby said.  "Just to see even a small percent - any percent of change - in health-related behaviors on campus (is my goal)."

   Thursday, Nov. 15, UAM will host the Great American Smokeout, an event that encourages tobacco-users to give up nicotine for one day and provides information on tobacco cessation in the hopes the participants will choose to stay quit. The event will take place in the John F. Gibson University Center Green Room from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

   During the Great American Smokeout, participants will receive survival kits filled with aids to help fight the habit, such as suckers, mints, gum and other candies, as well as information on tobacco and effective tips and suggestions on how to quit smoking, dipping or chewing tobacco. Sugar-free survival kits will be provided as well.

   Selby said she hopes the event will help faculty, staff and students with a tobacco habit begin a path in the direction of quitting, admitting that few succeed on the first attempt.

   "Nicotine is a drug, and it is an addiction," Selby said.  "It's hard to quit cold-turkey."

   While the Great American Smokeout provides tobacco-users with an opportunity to receive valuable information on the harms of smoking, chewing or dipping tobacco and ways to quit, in order to quit for good, smokers and dippers need more than one day.

   The Fax-Back Referral System and the Stamp Out Smoking Quitline provide further support for those serious about quitting. Both programs work to connect tobacco-users with a counselor to increase their odds of quitting.

   Tobacco-users can fill out the Fax-Back Referral System form, which asks for basic information such as name, date of birth, address, contact information, gender, ethnicity, language preference and type of insurance, which may allow the smoker to receive certain cessation medications.  The form also asks some questions about the type of tobacco use.

   The form will go to the SOS Works at the University of Arkansas Medical School College of Public Health, Arkansas Statewide Tobacco Programs and Services, SOS Quitline and the Arkansas Tobacco Cessation Network.  The patient is then referred to a treatment program and contacted by a counselor.

   The patient will then undergo 40-45 minute sessions over a period of several months (the sessions can take place on the telephone).  The counselor will provide tobacco-use information, treatment for tobacco dependence of any kind, motivational counseling and a follow-up once the program is completed.  The program is free of charge and also provides nicotine patches to help quitters with withdrawal symptoms.

   The SOS Quitline provides a similar services as the Fax-Back Referral System.  Tobacco-users can call the Arkansas SOS Quitline at 1-866-669-7848 to receive treatment by trained specialists over the phone.  The counselor will conduct a 20-30 minute interview, followed by at least six 30-60 minute telephone sessions.

   The program schedules caller's first treatment session within seven days of the first call and provides medication assistance, self-help and motivational materials and treatment services for non-English speaking participants.  Spanish-speaking participants can call the Quitline at 1-800-590-8026.

   Selby said the hardest part of her job is convincing a smoker to stop smoking, because most people already know smoking increases their risk for certain kinds of cancer and other diseases, and they know they need to quit.  According to Selby, it's a matter of changing a person's health behavior.

   "Motivating someone to change is the hardest part of the job," she said.  "The person has to want to and be ready (to quit).  All I can do is be ready to help when they're ready to make the change."  

   Selby also wants to work with local day cares to provide seminars on Act 13, which prohibits smoking in all motor vehicles where there is a child who is less than 6 years of age, weighs less than 60 pounds and is restrained in a child-passenger safety seat.  Arkansas passed Act 13 in 2006, around the time the Act 8, the Clean Indoor Air Act, passed.

   She also plans to work with the Division of Nursing and the new Student 2 Student, which focuses on educating the campus community about alcohol.  As well, she helps offer community training seminars through the Drew County Health Coalition, such as the grant-writing workshop, "Grant Writing 101," offered Wednesday, Nov. 14 from 9:30 - 11:45 a.m.

   "We're fostering great education and preventive health measures and community health awareness," Selby said. "Everyone's been supportive of the program and that's the best thing."


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ŠThe Voice 2007
Revised 09/17/2007 08:12:03 PM —