A Systems-Based Intervention to Promote Smoking as a Vital Sign in Patients Served by Community Health Centers

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The frequency of asking and advising adult patients about tobacco use was measured after an intervention to adopt smoking as a vital sign at 7 community health centers. The intervention consisted of training staff, revising forms and vital sign stamps, and disseminating educational materials. Documentation in medical charts was reviewed for 1571 randomly sampled patients in 2002 and 2003. The point prevalence (last encounter) and period prevalence (any annual encounter) of asking patients about smoking increased significantly from 2002 to 2003 (59% to 85%, and 71% to 97%, respectively) overall and at each health center. On advising smokers to quit, 4 health centers improved, but the overall point prevalence, 26%, and period prevalence, 46%, were unchanged over time. An intervention using multiple strategies may have contributed to improving the rates of asking but did not have as large or consistent an impact on rates of advising smokers to quit.

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