Health professionals and members of the community gathered at Zao Island Thursday evening for the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition of Porter County’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Night.
“Each year we like to say a special thank you to our volunteers because they have dedicated their time over the past year to help educate citizens about the dangers of tobacco and promote the resources available to those wanting to quit,” said Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition Program Coordinator Susan Gleason. “Some have utilized their time within their organizations, while others volunteer to assist in whatever ways are needed.”
Many families from the community came to Zao Island to show their appreciation of the Coalition and their wonderful volunteers. The group enjoyed Coladas pizza and Zao Island’s many attractions. The younger family members especially enjoyed the blow up slide, go-carts, and mini golf.
The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition works to make sure everyone in the community understands the risks of smoking and second hand smoke. The Coalition works with state government to pass non-smoking legislation to limit the prevalence of second-hand smoke in public areas and to raise taxes on harmful tobacco products.
“This past year, we have concentrated a great deal of our efforts on promoting tobacco cessation,” said Gleason. “The Indiana Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) is a free resource available to all Hoosiers. The recipients of the awards this year have gone the extra mile to not only promote tobacco cessation, but also have taken it upon themselves to include fax referrals to the Quitline in their treatment plans. We are grateful to them for their dedication.”
The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition presented four community health organizations with awards that express the Coalition’s thanks for their help in achieving their mission of saving lives by promoting tobacco control initiatives and reducing tobacco use by our citizens.
The awards for “A clinic or hospital whose physicians make outstanding fax referrals to Indiana Tobacco Quitline” went to NorthShore Health Centers. Dr. Kamaljeet Girn humbly accepted the award.
“Dr. Girn has for the past several years been one of our physician champions who strives to improve the health of his patients by assisting them in quitting their addiction to tobacco,” said Gleason.
HealthLinc won the award for “A clinic or hospital that has made significant progress toward a system change to automatically send referrals to the Quitline from their electronic health records.”
Porter-Starke Services won the award for “Organization with most referrals to Indiana Tobacco.”
“The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition is really at the forefront of educating folks,” said Todd Willis, Director of Children’s Services at Porter-Starke and Board Chair of Porter County Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition. “People understand the difficulties and health issues with smoking, but still aren’t fully behind limiting second hand smoke.”
Second hand smoke affects all people, regardless of age or health status. Willis is a Licensed Mental Health Councilor, and often works with mentally ill clients.
“As many as 75% to 80% of our mentally ill clients are dying from tobacco-related illnesses,” said Willis. “It’s crucial advocate for more stringent tobacco and smoking laws.” Finally, Porter Regional Hospital received the award for a “Provider who us working with employers to incorporate the Indian Tobacco Quitline into wellness programs.”
The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition plays a critical role in making Porter County as healthy as possible.
“In [the past 10 years] we have accomplished much,” said Gleason. “When I started, the smoking prevalence rate in Indiana was over 32%. Today it’s 21.9%. More and more people are choosing healthier lifestyles. We have a long way to go in Indiana to ensure that all Hoosiers can live and work in a healthy environment, but we have made progress toward that goal.”