FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Central Valley health center is taking action to help support people who want to quit smoking.
California has made progress in extinguishing tobacco use.
However, numbers from the Department of Public Health still show tobacco use in the San Joaquin Valley is the second highest in the state at almost 16%.
"The Central Valley tends to have the highest tobacco use rates in the state," explained Dulce Velazquez, VIVA project director. "Therefore, our rural communities tend to have higher rates of lung cancer, which we know smoking is a risk for lung cancer."
Velazquez is part of the VIVA (Voice Inspiring Valley Action) Project in the Central Valley, which advocates for change to reduce tobacco use. It's part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
"We try to work with our volunteers, our local community partners and advocate for 100% smoke-free environments that are going to protect people from the exposure of secondhand smoke, that are going to help de-normalize smoking, and as well as support those that are trying to quit smoking," she said.
VIVA has partnered with Aria Community Health Center and Kick It California to implement new strategies to meet these goals.
Patients who visit one of Aria Community's 13 facilities will get the support and guidance needed to quit smoking.
"The patient will express that they do have a desire to quit smoking. So the medical assistant will relay that information to the provider, then the provider will submit a Kick It California referral and it gets sent over to their site, and then they follow up with the patient via telephone," explained Cynthia Diaz, Aria Community Health Center program coordinator.
Prior to this system, ACHC didn't have the capacity to follow up with patients with information about their tobacco cessation services.
Cynthia Diaz said they expect program participation to increase with the change.
"Most of the time, it takes seven times to attempt to quit smoking -- that's the average that a lot of people do go through," Diaz said. "So it doesn't automatically happen the first time. So we explain that and express that and let them know that their support is here."
The health center facilities are also now smoke-free and tobacco-free.
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