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Missouri receives nearly $2 million grant to reduce smoking, boost nutrition

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Missouri will receive slightly more than $1 million in federal stimulus money to expand its efforts to help smokers kick the habit, state health officials said recently.

"This funding will help us expand our highly successful Tobacco Quitline," said Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services." We know that this program reduces health care costs at the same time it provides Missourians with a better quality of life."

The funding is part of $119.5 million in grants that states received this month through the federal stimulus package, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The grants will provide $1,015,150 for Missouri's Quitline expansion. The Quitline provides counseling, referral services and nicotine replacement therapy to help smokers overcome their addiction to tobacco.

In the last year Missouri's Quitline has been particularly effective. Aided by an advertising campaign featuring Gov. Jay Nixon and members of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, the Quitline's usage skyrocketed.

The number of calls last year from smokers seeking help more than doubled, from 5,400 in 2008 to 11,451 in 2009. The department provided nicotine replacement therapy to 7,453 callers, more than three times as many as the year before.

The new grant will allow health officials to continue to provide quitline services after current funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health runs out later this yer. The grant is expected to cover the cost of services to an additional 4,500 smokers, paticularly pregnant women. In Missouri, more than one of every six pregnant women smokes, a rate of 64 percent higher than the national average.

The funding also will allow the health department to provide free nicotine replacement to an estimated 951 smokers on Medicaid. By helping Medicaid recipients quit tobacco, the Medicaid program is expected to achieve significant long-term savings.

Missouri's grant was part of $44.5 million included in the stimulus package specifically to expand tobacco quitlines.

The state will also receive $891,160 to help people stay healthy by improving nutrition programs and making it easier for people to say physically active. The grant arrives at a time when surveys show that nearly two-thirds of Missourians are either overweight or obese.



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