A Public Health Success That Can Save Real Dollars

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released data showing a dramatic drop in smoking rates among low income individuals insured through the state Medicaid program.  The graph above comes from the Boston Globe on November 18.

Preliminary data also shows lower rates of heart attacks among those who used the program.

There are reasons to be a bit skeptical of this data.  Those who used the smoking cessation program were probably different than those who didn't, and the percent drop seems quite high.   Also, Medicaid is a combination of "Temporary Assistance to Needy Families" (largely pregnant women and their kids -where smoking rates do not lead to a lot of heart attacks in the short run), and those with serious disabilities, who are older and where smoking cessation could lead to prevented heart attacks over the short run.

Still - this is just great news.  Smoking is a very major cause of preventable illness and death, and smoking rates remain highest among those with lower socioeconomic status.  It's unfortunate that even in light of the proven effectiveness of antismoking programs states have cut funding for such programs in light of their current budget shortfalls.