Verella Moore, an administrator coordinator and medical assistant in Ambulatory Services at 850 Boylston St., knew she had to get serious about quitting smoking if she wanted to improve her health and save money.
After many unsuccessful attempts to quit on her own, she turned to Partners in Helping You Quit (PiHQ), a smoking cessation study whose participants are BWH and Partners HealthCare employees. She said PiHQ changed her life forever.
“It was my saving grace,” Moore said. “I remember sitting at my desk when an email from Partners in Helping You Quit popped up. I knew in that moment that I was ready to do whatever it took to kick my bad habit. Realizing that I wasn’t in this fight alone meant everything to me.”
The PiHQ study was launched in 2015 to help employees and their adult dependents cut down and quit smoking. Enrollment is open and ongoing.
PiHQ is designed to build on the health insurance benefit for Partners employees enrolled in Partners medical coverage. Smoking cessation medications, like the nicotine patch or varenicline (Chantix) are covered without a copay. PiHQ is designed to build on that benefit to give smokers the best chance to succeed in becoming smoke-free. The study is testing which of two programs is most effective. Participants are randomly assigned to either PIHQ or a state-run smoking cessation program. Each program provides a personal tobacco coach and offers help that is private, confidential and tailored to employees’ needs.
“Tobacco coaches complete an initial call with every smoker in the study. Together, they develop a treatment plan that includes medication and counseling support,” said Jennifer Kelley, PiHQ tobacco coach. “We understand that quitting smoking can be a challenge and there is no reason to go through it alone.”
Patty Pizzano, operations coordinator for Brigham and Women’s Faulker Hospital’s Emergency Department, also joined the study. She started smoking in her late teens and would smoke anywhere from five cigarettes to a pack in a day.
Pizzano said she was surprised at how easy it was to quit with help from her tobacco coach. When she did struggle, her smoking cessation medication was adjusted. At one point, she added nicotine lozenges and did behavior change exercises that were suggested by her coach to help alleviate cravings and manage triggers to smoke.
“It’s a burden lifted,” Pizzano said. “I am no longer worried about uncomfortable situations and where I’m going to smoke. Someone told me it’s the most important thing I can do for my life and my health, and I think that is absolutely true. I feel confident that I can walk a little further or run a little farther. I even joined a gym.”
Smoke-free for several months now, Moore said she appreciates the regular check-ins from PiHQ because they are a reminder that people are rooting for her.
“I had to change my way of thinking,” Moore said. “You have to want to quit for yourself before you do it for anyone else.”
To learn more about the PiHQ study, call 617-724-2205 or email PiHQ@partners.org.