Researchers to Launch Innovative Smoking Cessation Program for Hispanic Construction Workers

A team of researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is preparing to launch an innovative smoking cessation intervention program for Hispanic construction workers.

“This occupational group is at high risk of smoking-related health and occupational hazards,” said Taghrid Asfar, M.D., M.S.P.H., who is a co-investigator in the initiative. “But smoking cessation efforts have been hindered by several factors, including high workplace mobility, limited access to health promotion services, and lack of culturally sensitive interventions tailored to their work/life circumstances.”

The principal investigator, David J. Lee, Ph.D., Project Director for the Florida Cancer Data System at Sylvester, and professor and Director of Graduate Programs at the Department of Public Health Sciences, worked with Asfar to develop an innovative two-year study, “Health Promotion Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Males,” to provide smoking cessation education and support to workers on construction sites.

“Our study will use lunch trucks serving Miami-Dade construction sites as a vehicle to deliver educational and interventional services,” said Lee. “This project is highly significant because it addresses an important public health problem, in a growing and underserved population, using a novel and culturally sensitive approach to smoking cessation.”

A recent feasibility study by the Miller School’s Occupational Research Group found that 54 percent of Miami-Dade construction workers are smokers, far higher than other occupational groups. However, more than 80 percent of these workers, who are primarily male Hispanics, expressed an interest in quitting.

“Apart from smoking, construction workers are frequently exposed to a wide range of workplace hazards, including toxins, such as carbon monoxide, air pollutants, and fibers, many of which interact with smoking to increase workers’ risk for lung cancer and chronic lung disease,” said Lee. “But construction workers are less likely than other workers to see a health care provider for preventive services.”

Asfar said the first step in the upcoming Miller School program will be holding several focus groups with male Hispanic construction workers to gain a better understanding of their lifestyles, work status and smoking behaviors.

“We will discuss how to design our intervention and talk about what behavior treatments are most likely to be successful,” she said. “We hope to start the focus groups in April.”

Drawing on that information, the Miller School researchers will recruit about 100 workers to conduct a pilot two-arm randomized clinical trial to test the developed intervention. Participants in the study will be randomized to either a treatment group or control group. The treatment group will receive the tailored intervention from the Miller School team (typically five to 15 minutes) at the lunch truck, along with a referral to the Florida Quitline (877-U-CAN-NOW), which is sponsored by the Florida Department of Health. The control group will receive only referral to the Florida Quitline for assistance.

Participants in the trial will be evaluated three months and six months after the end of treatment.

“We will also ask about 25 participants in the treatment group about their experiences and see what helped them to quit smoking,” Asfar said. “We will then use that information from this exploratory study for more extensive trials and efforts to reduce smoking among Hispanic construction workers here and throughout the United States.”

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