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Alison W. Bullock

Smokers in Chicago may have to find another perch off the premises of some medical centers.

Southwest side medical center’s smoke-free campus just one way they help patients stop smoking

by Alison W. Bullock
Feb 10, 2011

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Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project

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Access Community Health Network
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American Medical Association
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Beacon Therapeutic Diagnostic and Treatment Center
Beloved Community Family Wellness Center

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United Neighborhood Organization (UNO)

If you are a patient, visitor or staff member at Beloved Community Family Wellness Center, don’t even think about asking for a light.  Beloved launched a policy in November that mandates no smoking on its Englewood campus – including the parking lot. 

The Chicago Clean Indoor Air Ordinance currently prohibits smoking inside and within 15 feet of the entrance to virtually all enclosed public places and businesses in the city.

In September, the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project awarded more than $2 million to 30 different community organizations to offer stop-smoking programs in neighborhoods with a high number of smokers.  The money would also be used to promote tobacco-free living.

Beloved was the first federally qualified health clinic to open in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.  Before moving to a clinic in the 6800 block of South Halsted in January 2010, Beloved operated out of three rooms at St. Bernard Hospital in Englewood. 

Rosie Medley is the program manager of Beloved’s Tobacco Prevention Project. Once the center received the grant in November, she said, it banned smoking on its premises. The rule is that Beloved not only talks the talk, it walks the walk.

“We need to be advocates for preventative healthcare,” she said.  “It’s part of our routine to ask our patients if they smoke.”

Once smokers are identified, they are directed to the center’s free program called Courage to Quit, which is funded by the grant.  If patients are not interested in quitting they receive information about the health consequences of smoking. They also are told about other resources to help them if they do decide to quit.  

Beloved’s stop-smoking groups have been successful, said program organizer Tamika Nash. Leaders run groups that meet for an hour a week for six weeks.  The clinic sees approximately 20 to 25 new smokers per month, said Medley.

“It might be difficult to get them in the door,” Nash said, “but once they show up, people sign up and participate.”

It’s easy to get the center’s anti-smoking message across, she said, because once patients enter the building, they see that the entire staff abides by the clinic’s no-smoking policy. The biggest challenge has been getting the word out that the program is available. 

The money is also used to purchase incentives like snacks, water and bags with logos that advertise the program, Medley said.

Courage to Quit is open to all Englewood residents. Reaching people in the neighborhood is important, Medley said, since many are unemployed and have limited access to healthcare.  Smoking, she said, can become their way of coping with the stress of living in a low-income neighborhood.

According to the national Center for Disease Control, smoking rates are higher in low-income areas. Approximately 33 percent of adults in those neighborhoods smoke, compared with 22 percent in more affluent areas.

One goal of the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project, said Jamila Johnson, a project official, is to encourage more local hospitals, schools and businesses to create smoke-free campuses. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Lakeview became an entirely smoke-free campus in December.