Anthem gives $140,000 for 3-county program to cut smoking by pregnant women, still at 21.9% in Ky., among highest in U.S.

Health departments in Christian, Hopkins and Madison counties will start a program called Giving Infants and Families Tobacco Free Starts, with a $140,000 grant to the state health department from the Anthem Foundation.

The GIFTS program was created to help decrease the number of women who smoke during pregnancy and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for the pregnant woman and her infant, a state news release said. Smoking before and during pregnancy is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Tobacco use is a serious problem in Kentucky, but it is an even more serious issue for women who smoke during pregnancy,” said Dr. Ruth Shepherd, director of the state health department’s Division of Maternal and Child Health. “Smoking during pregnancy and infant exposure to secondhand smoke create numerous risks for babies, including pre-maturity and low birth weight, and risks for developing certain conditions like asthma.”

Smoking rates among pregnant Kentucky women dropped from 26.3 percent in 2004 to 21.9 percent in 2013, but that is still among the highest rates in the U.S. In 2013, 13.3 percent of Kentucky births to smoking mothers were premature, compared to 10.2 percent of births to mothers who did not smoke. Even more striking were these numbers: 13.6 percent of babies born to smokers had low birth weight, compared to only 7.5 percent of those born to non-smokers.

The GIFTS program includes a screening tool for assessing tobacco dependence; screening for depression, social support and domestic violence; individualized counseling and support; referral to a service that helps smokers quit; and educational materials, including relapse prevention and the risks of secondhand smoke exposure in the home.

“Reducing the amount of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure is not only crucial for improving the health of our state,” state Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield said in the news release. “We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Anthem Foundation and look forward to building on the success of GIFTS and working toward reaching our state’s health goals.”

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