This blog post was written by Bridget Teevan, the HealthCorps member who is working directly with the Rewards to Quit research study.
I first learned about the Rewards to Quit program when I was interviewing to join AmeriCorps here at CHC. My first thoughts about a study that paid some people for going to counseling or taking breathalyzer tests to help them quit smoking was that it was innovative and had great potential. Sure, there was potential for abuse—people could sign up and use the services simply to get money and then not quit or worse, use the reward money to buy more cigarettes. But, persons would still be going to counseling and would hopefully get some benefit out of that. In short, I was excited about this study. Having a background in public health I know how huge of a problem smoking is. Everyone knows the dangers and yet smoking is more prevalent than us public health professionals would like. I was so psyched that I could potentially be a part of a solution.
Not only was I excited about the potential impacts of the work, I was thrilled to get my foot in the door of public health research. I’ve read hundreds of research papers, but I’ve never been a part of helping to put a study together, so I’m learning the ropes in that area. So far I’ve found that it is incredibly, logistically challenging. We make adjustments to our procedures all the time, trying to find the path of least resistance. Luckily, we’ve got the help of my fellow AmeriCorps members to help us with enrollment and staff across the agency are incredibly supportive. Despite any logistic difficulties, it is infinitely more rewarding when everything starts coming together and you get to see the work you’ve done making a difference.
Perhaps my favorite part so far has been my interactions with the patients enrolling in the study. They are so diverse and have great stories they share when they sit down to talk to me. I learn just as much from them during an enrollment session as they learn from me. So, while they are potentially earning rewards to quit smoking, I earn rewards simply by talking to them.
I’m always pleasantly surprised by the patients, a majority of them are ready to quit smoking. Everyone has a different reason for wanting to quit, be it kids, their health, money, or something else. But each has clearly thought about it and decided that they want to quit, money is just a bonus. It may be hard to believe that motivation trumps money but the overwhelming response from patients who find out they may not be earning money for using the services is, “I don’t care about the money, I just want to quit smoking.” It’s so refreshing to hear that in today’s society.
The study only began almost 2 short months ago and we’ve already enrolled over 200 patients. To be honest, I had no idea what sort of volume to expect when the study began. We knew that CHC was home to some 5,500 smokers, but I couldn’t begin to guess how many would be willing to join. I’m pleased with our numbers—and we still have 6 more sites to roll out at, that’s a lot of untapped potential! I’m definitely excited about those that we have enrolled. So many of them are motivated and ready to quit. I’m hopeful that many of them will see the quitting process through and be rewarded in more ways than just with money because, hey, quitting is rewarding!