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Roswell Park program aims to boost quit rate among people disproportionately affected by tobacco use


Wed, Aug 23rd 2023 07:30 pm

Scholarships will help train more tobacco treatment specialists to serve at-risk communities

Submitted by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Some communities suffer disproportionately from the health effects of tobacco use, which causes 30% of all cancer deaths. But while most people who use tobacco want to quit – including growing numbers who want to quit vaping – many do not have access to effective treatment programs for tobacco and nicotine addiction in their communities.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center aims to address this issue by offering scholarships to New York state residents to cover full tuition for the Roswell Park tobacco treatment specialist (TTS) training program. The cancer center has dedicated $500,000 to support training of up to 100 tobacco treatment specialists per year for five years.

With these significant resources, we will be able to dramatically increase the number of certified tobacco treatment specialists in New York state,” said Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., chair of health behavior at Roswell Park.

“We’re particularly hoping to get word out about the scholarships to health professionals and others working in communities that experience tobacco-related disparities,” said Christine Sheffer, Ph.D., director of the TTS training program at Roswell Park. “People in some communities – including sexual- and gender-minority communities, low-income communities and many communities of color – smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products at higher rates than the general population or are simply more vulnerable to tobacco-related diseases, which makes it especially important for them to quit.”

She added, “We’re looking for people who are interested in providing treatment for tobacco use in their community or professional setting. Participants might be starting a new program or supporting a program in their medical facility, or they may provide services to – or live in – public housing, or they might be health professionals trying to understand how to make tobacco users more comfortable while they’re hospitalized. We welcome applicants from any professional background or community.”

The current and founding president of the Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs (CTTTP), the accrediting body for TTS training programs, Sheffer has treated tobacco addiction and trained TTSs for 23 years. The Roswell Park training program has been accredited by the Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs since 2018 – and is one of just 27 accredited training programs worldwide.

“Tobacco treatment specialists are trained to help people develop the tools they need to quit any tobacco or nicotine product – and stay quit,” she said. “This program will add to the existing ways that New York state residents can access high-quality, evidence-based treatment within their communities.”

Led by world-renowned experts in the field, the Roswell Park program helps trainees develop the core competencies and skills they need to effectively treat tobacco and nicotine use. The program includes an extensive discussion of the many types of tobacco products on the market and the evolving tobacco regulatory environment. 

Registration is now open for two upcoming TTS training programs to be held at Roswell Park: Sept. 25-29 and April 22-26, 2024. Those interested can register and apply for a scholarship online. A committee will review the scholarship applications, which should include a statement from the applicants describing how they will use the training to serve their communities.

Roswell Park has been home to the New York State Smokers’ Quitline since 2000, fielding calls every year from more than 30,000 people who want to end their dependence on commercial tobacco products. Earlier this year the New York State Department of Health renewed its contract with Roswell Park to continue providing that service for the next five years.

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