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The Power of Partnership: Stronger Together

Center for Hope group photo
Chelsey Schlechter, PhD, research scientist with the Center for HOPE; Joshua Alvarez, Midtown Community Health Center clinic director; and Tracey Siaperas, community health center liaison.

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Although rates have declined significantly, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Currently, approximately 15% of Utah adults use tobacco products, with higher rates among populations with low annual household incomes, those who are under- or uninsured, many racial and ethnic minority groups, and the LGBTQ+ community. For these reasons, community health centers, which serve patients regardless of their ability to pay, are an important venue for at-risk populations to receive tobacco cessation services and interventions.

Through a collaboration with the Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH) and the Utah Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) researchers are collaborating with more than 30 community health centers across Utah on a new study aimed at improving engagement with evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco.

David Wetter, PhD, director of HCI’s Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE), leads the initiative. Aptly named QuitSMART Utah, the study will broaden the reach of the Utah Tobacco Quit Line, which offers web, text, and telephone-based tobacco cessation services in multiple languages as well as nicotine replacement therapy. The goal is to enroll 6,000 adults who want to stop using tobacco and test various strategies such as how, when, and in what combination the services work best to help people quit successfully.

Tracey Siaperas is an integrated care coordinator at AUCH, and also serves as a community health center liaison at HCI, where she spends four days a week navigating the complex network of community health centers across Utah. Before joining AUCH, Siaperas gained valuable experience working at a rural community health center. She brings with her a network of relationships that amplify HCI’s community-engaged research efforts. "This role is a natural fit," Siaperas says. "I serve as the voice of the community health centers. Our associate members know me well. They respect and trust me to share their concerns and ensure their needs are being addressed."

In addition to AUCH, the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program team, led by Sandra Schulties and Marci Nelson, is a key partner. They help the research team with links to the Quit Line and data on service use, as well as reallocating tobacco cessation resources to provide medication to community health center patients.

Dr. Wetter and his team know in order to be successful, they must bring communities and researchers together to create and implement sustainable solutions.

"Creating and sustaining research partnerships requires an understanding of shared goals, patience, and, most importantly, trust," says Wetter. "Our hope is that through this partnership, the health of our communities will improve. There is power in partnership."

Learn more about the Huntsman Cancer Institute Center for Hope.

Cancer touches all of us.