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Tobacco Cessation Publication by Professor at OU Hudson College of Public Health Earns 'Paper of the Year' Honors


Published: Tuesday, February 2, 2021

A research article by Laura Beebe, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the OU Hudson College of Public Health, has been honored as one of the best publications of 2020 by the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The article, titled "They Came, But Will They Come Back? An Observational Study of Re-enrollment Predictors for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline," was named the Michael P. O'Donnell Paper of the Year for 2020. O'Donnell, the founder and Editor in Chief Emeritus of the American Journal of Health Promotion, is a longtime leader in tobacco control and tobacco policy enforcement at the Cleveland Clinic and across Ohio.

Beebe's paper presents the results of a study about increasing the benefits of the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, the state's free, 24/7 resource for people who want to quit using tobacco. The helpline is funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), created by Oklahoma voters in 2000 to improve the health of Oklahomans.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline offers a range of tobacco cessation services, including its hallmark resource, a free two-week starter kit of nicotine replacement therapy, in the form of patches, gum or lozenges. In 2015, the helpline began offering Individual Services, which allows people to choose the type of assistance they want rather than signing up for a package of services. For example, they may want to receive supportive text messages in addition to their nicotine replacement therapy, but not regular calls with a quit coach. Beebe's hypothesis was that by offering these lower-intensity "a la carte" services, people would be more likely to re-enroll in robust follow-up services like regular calls with a coach. The study proved that to be true.

"We discovered that 16% of people who started with lower-intensity Individual Services re-enrolled within six months," Beebe said. "That was significantly higher than the people who started out with a more intense level of services - they were much less likely to come back for additional support. This showed us that the nicotine replacement therapy gave people some motivation and familiarity with the helpline so that they asked for additional services. The study demonstrated that the concept of Individual Services is helping people to make the first contact with the helpline, then once they see the value, they return for more services."

Beebe and her team are now evaluating the rates of tobacco cessation among those who chose Individual Services during the study period, as well as those who re-enrolled in additional services. Thus far, the results are promising, she said. She will provide her data to TSET, which uses the information to substantiate its continued funding of the helpline. TSET places high value on the evaluation of its programs, Beebe said, and makes decisions guided by evidence from studies like hers.

Receiving "Paper of the Year" recognition from the American Journal of Health Promotion is a tremendous honor, Beebe said, but it also highlights the important work of tobacco helplines.

"Every state in the nation has a tobacco helpline," she said. "When we're able to demonstrate findings like this for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, it expands the evidence base for the entire tobacco control movement. Other states will look to Oklahoma to see what we are doing with our helpline and perhaps adopt similar strategies of their own."

Gary Raskob, Ph.D., Dean of the Hudson College of Public Health, added: "The Hudson College of Public Health is committed to being a leader in addressing the public health problem of tobacco use, which is, in fact, our country's longest-running epidemic. Dr. Beebe's excellent publication reaffirms that when we lower the barriers to tobacco cessation resources, people are more likely to continue seeking the services that will ultimately improve their health and quality of life."

Beebe worked with a multidisciplinary team of colleagues to conduct the study and publish its results. Her co-authors include Lindsay Boeckman, MS, a biostatistician in the Hudson College of Public Health; Paola Klein, MHR, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center; former OU Health Sciences Center psychologist Stephen Gillaspy, Ph.D., now at the American Psychological Association; and Jessie Saul, Ph.D., a health services researcher with North American Research & Analysis, Inc., in Wisconsin.