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Overton Brooks VA Medical Center


Overton Brooks VA wants Vets to quit (smoking)

VA wants Vets to quit(smoking)

(Left to Right): Jennifer Albritton Bowen, Health Behavior Coordinator, Dr. Moona Tanga, Occupational Health Program and Employee Wellness Program Medical Director and MOVE Champion Physician, Caroline Chartier, Program Manager, Health Promotion Disease Prevention. These health care professionals assist Veterans and medical center employees who wish to quit smoking, working with such programs as Wellness Is Now (WIN) and SUDS Tobacco Cessation, among others.

By Joe Thomas
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Overton Brooks VA Medical Center supported The Great American Smokeout by reaching out to Veterans Thursday, Nov. 20.

Staff members associated with the medical center’s Health Promotion Disease Prevention (HPDP) program shared information with Veterans in the hospital’s main lobby. Staff also administered breathing tests for those who were interested.

“I smoked for 45 years,” Albert Neely, volunteer and Army Veteran, said. “The test says I have the lungs of a 103-year-old.”

Smoke free for 10 years, Neely helps his fellow Veterans by sharing personal experiences and tips about smoking cessation. He volunteers for SUDS Smoking Cessation— a group that meets at every Tuesday at 9a.m. in the medical center.

“Quitting is a two part process— one part mental, one part physical. It’s a mix of behavioral modification and medication.”

Medication not only includes nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, but also Bupropion and Chantix.

“These medications are free for Veterans who self-enroll in the program if they have a desire to quit smoking,” Caroline Chartier, Program Manager, HPDP, Overton Brooks VA, said.

According to literature provided by HDPD, Veterans can get smoke-free by seeking Level One Support. At this level, a Veteran’s Primary Care Provider will recommend treatment options; however, this may not be enough for some Veterans.

For those wishing to take the next step, the medical center also provides Level Two Support, in which a Primary Care Provider links the Veteran with a tobacco cessation expert. The expert can help the Veteran design a “quit plan” with a “quit date.”

“Studies show that weaning may be more effective than quitting cold turkey for some,” Jennifer Albritton Bowen, Health Behavior Coordinator, Overton Brooks VA, said. Bowen also helps VA employees quit smoking through the Wellness Is Now (WIN) program. The program provides employees with some of the same resources available to Veterans.

Level Three Support includes enrollment in SUDS Smoking Cessation, a four-session group program designed to help Veterans “gain freedom from cigarettes and other forms of tobacco,” according to Smoking Cessation literature. 

“We can get you to quit,” Neely said. “That’s the easy part. The hard part is making sure that you stay that way.”

What you should expect if you quit:

•         20 minutes later— your heart rate drops

•         12 hours later— the carbon monoxide levels in your blood will drop to normal as well as your risk of heart attack

•         2-3 weeks later— your lung capacity has healed by 30 percent

•         1-9 months later— coughing and shortness of breath decrease

•         1 year later— your added risk of coronary heart disease drops by 50 percent

•         5 years later—your stroke risk drops to that of a nonsmoker between 5-15 years

Additionally, more than half of Americans who smoke and don’t quit die from smoking. Smoking can lead to a variety of cancers and heart disease, as well increased vulnerability to flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. Other complications may include macular degeneration, or the gradual loss of eyesight, among other diseases. This information is provided by the American Cancer Society.

Held on the third Thursday of every November, The Great American Smokeout is a nation-wide event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The day is meant to educate others about the dangers of smoking. For Overton Brooks VA, and the staff of HDPD specifically, it means serving Veterans by giving them the information and encouragement they need to quit.

If you’re a Veteran who is enrolled in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and you are interested in smoking cessation, please contact your VA Primary Care Provider. The VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Longview, Texas, Monroe, La. and Texarkana, Ark. also provide resources for smoking cessation.


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