SEARHC was presented the "Leaders in Health System Change" award for becoming the first Alaska Native tribal health organization to create a tobacco-free campus. Since SEARHC took all of its facilities tobacco-free on April 1, 2005, several other health organizations around the state enacted similar policies.
"It's important to recognize that we need to walk our talk," SEARHC President/CEO Ken Brewer said. "If we want to call ourselves a health care organization, if we want credibility, then our campuses need to be tobacco-free."
The SEARHC Community Health Services building and regional village clinic campuses began the movement toward a consortium-wide policy by going tobacco-free on Oct. 1, 2004. The idea came when Donna Jackson, an administrative assistant at SEARHC's Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock, e-mailed Mark Gorman, SEARHC Vice President of Community Health Services, and encouraged him to better protect patients from secondhand smoke at the facility. Six months later, with the backing of the SEARHC Tobacco Team and SEARHC Board of Directors, all of SEARHC's facilities had gone tobacco-free.
"Having a tobacco-free campus has been excellent for both patients and staff," said Andrea Thomas, SEARHC Tobacco Grant Manager. "One of my favorite quotes from a recent employee survey about the policy said: 'Love it! My mom had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) and had to see her provider at the hospital at least once a month. Someone living with breathing difficulties should never have to walk through a curtain of tobacco smoke, which triggered asthma attacks! Keep up the good work!'"
In addition to creating a tobacco-free policy, SEARHC made more resources available to help patients and employees learn how to quit tobacco. Patients and employees can call (toll-free in Alaska during normal business hours) 1-888-966-8875 for information on quitting and access to nicotine replacement therapy products.