Monroe County applies for renewal of smoking cessation grant for pregnant women

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, the board signed off on an application for the renewal of a grant from the Indiana State Department of Health for a program called Baby and Me Tobacco Free.

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If it’s approved, the county will receive $29,906 to support a smoking cessation program for pregnant women.

For pregnant women to stop smoking benefits the child, because according to the Center for Disease Control, smoking during pregnancy increases risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight and birth defects of the mouth and lip.

A higher percentage of pregnant women in Monroe County smoke than in the rest of the state, based on numbers from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). And a higher percentage of pregnant women in Indiana smoke than in the rest of the country, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Even though the county has received a similar grant in years before, Wednesday’s meeting was the first time a grant application had been in front of the board of commissioners. The county’s health administrator, Penny Caudill, told the board it was a bit of a surprise to find out the commissioners needed to sign off on the application, but that was the reason the item was on the meeting agenda.

The Baby and Me Tobacco Free program is based in Jamestown, New York. The staff includes a couple of graduates from the Indiana University School of Public Health. The website for the organization says the program is being used in 22 states.

Among Indiana’s 92 counties in 2017, Monroe County’s 15.4 percent was the 31st lowest percentage of pregnant women who smoked, based on ISDH figures.

But responding to a query from The Beacon, Caudill pointed out that Monroe County’s 15.4 percent in 2017 is higher than the state average of 13.5 percent. Caudill also cited the ISDH figure for Bloomington, which is higher than the number for Monroe County: 17.4 percent of 812 live births in Bloomington were to mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

The Indiana counties showing the 10 lowest percentages of women smoking during pregnancy in 2017 were: Hamilton (2.3 percent) , Lagrange, Boone, Hendricks, Dubois, Lak, Hancock, Adams, Elkhart, and Allen counties.

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Caudill also pointed out that Monroe County’s percentage of pregnant women smoking is much higher than the national average. Based on NCHS numbers from 2016, Indiana’s 13.5 percent of pregnant women smoking is almost twice the national average of 7.2 percent that year.

Among all states, Indiana ranked 12th for the highest percentage behind West Virginia (25 percent), Kentucky, Montana, Vermont, Missouri, Wyoming, Ohio, Maine, Arkansas and South Dakota. The states with the 10 lowest percentages are: California (1.6 percent), District of Columbia, Utah, Texas, Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Connecticut.

Responding to a question from The Beacon, Caudill said if the grant from ISDH were not approved this year, for a short time the county has some other funds that could support Baby and Me Tobacco Free. The county also uses Indiana Local Health Department Trust Account funds to support a staff person whose primary function is tobacco cessation and prevention, Caudill said. The trust account funds come from a national settlement between most states and tobacco companies.

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