Great American Smokeout Spotlights Pressing Need to Offer Cessation Resources to Every Tobacco User

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New York State Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement Launched to Create Crucial High-Level Systems Change to Address Tobacco Dependence

(New York, NY) The Great American Smokeout annually reminds us that quitting smoking is essential for good health, but most underserved populations in New York have not been able to quit. As part of an effort to decrease the nearly 28,000 deaths from tobacco use annually in New York State, CAI has recently launched the New York State Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement. i Focused on systems change and policy-level work that facilitates tobacco use identification and treatment among underserved populations, CAI will support 10 contractors throughout New York State and work in partnership with key stakeholders, regional health care systems, and the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control.

The Center of Excellence will build on CAI's expertise in population-based tobacco control efforts to reduce the prevalence of adult smoking, especially among individuals with low incomes and serious mental illness. Research has shown that these key populations have significantly higher smoking rates as compared to the general public and less access to regular counseling and treatment.

"We know tobacco isn't an equal opportunity killer -- there has been almost no reduction in smoking rates in certain populations," said Michelle Gerka, CAI's Vice President of Community Heath Programs. "We are eager to work with large health systems on a targeted strategy to reach those populations who have not been able to successfully quit in New York State."

Using systems change strategies that will include creating and strengthening organizational systems to identify and document tobacco use, treating every tobacco user, and greater use of evidence-based interventions such as counseling and medication, the Center of Excellence will also promote referrals to services, such as the New York State Smokers' Quitline. In addition to providing capacity-building services and resources to local and regional partners like federally qualified health centers, CAI will support statewide efforts to increase the percentage of health care provider organizations that have formally adopted and implemented systems and policies to assist smokers in quitting.

"Our objective is to increase the number of healthcare providers and health centers making tobacco dependence treatment a systematic priority so that every tobacco user who seeks medical care is systematically offered tobacco dependence treatment," said Elizabeth Jones, Project Director for the Center of Excellence.

The newly established Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement becomes the second tobacco control initiative led by CAI and funded by the New York State Bureau of Tobacco Control with a unique focus on organization and systems-level interventions. Since 2005, CAI has served as the Tobacco Control Training Center for New York State, delivering customized trainings to contractors to help decrease youth smoking rates and mobilize communities around tobacco control policies.

According to the CDC, tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease, afflicting nearly 600,000 New Yorkers with serious disease directly attributable to their smoking. ii To learn more about CAI's tobacco control and chronic disease prevention projects, visit our website

i Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, 2014, Section C: Recommended Funding Levels, by State New York, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

ii U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General., 2010,

About CAI

CAI is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of underserved populations worldwide. For 35 years, CAI has provided customized capacity-building services to health and human service organizations in over 27 countries and in all 50 states. Offering over 1500 training, organizational development, and capacity building programs annually, CAI's passionate staff works to fulfill its mission: to use the transformative power of education and research to foster a more aware, healthy, compassionate and equitable world. For more information about CAI, visit


This website was developed with funding provided by the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control to CAI. Its contents are solely the responsibility of CAI and do not necessarily represent the official views of the New York State Department of Health.