Youth Tobacco Prevention Sparks AAFP-convened Summit

Stakeholder Groups Trade Program Information, Explore Ways to Collaborate

April 21, 2014 02:23 pm Chris Crawford

On April 4, the Academy convened a number of tobacco-prevention stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to participate in an AAFP Youth & Tobacco Prevention Summit in Washington. According to Julie Wood, M.D., AAFP vice president of health of the public and science and interprofessional activities, the event was designed to meet two primary goals:

Regina Shaefer, M.P.H., (left) of the American Academy of Pediatrics, listens as Julie Wood, M.D., AAFP vice president of health of the public and science and interprofessional activities, discusses the Academy's current youth tobacco-prevention offerings.

  • Review and discuss the AAFP's current youth tobacco-prevention activities and recommend a path forward for a revised, robust plan for family physicians.
  • Offer an outlet for participants to familiarize themselves with fellow attendees' organizations and activities to identify synergies and create enhanced alignment of tobacco-prevention activities.

"There are many other organizations and federal partners working in this space, but often we are not aware of each other's work," Wood said. "The summit provided an opportunity for us to align our messages as well as further develop partnerships."

Key thought leaders in attendance came from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, CDC, FDA Center for Tobacco Products, GE Capital, HHS, Legacy Foundation, National Cancer Institute, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Story highlights
  • The Academy recently convened the AAFP Youth & Tobacco Prevention Summit to, among other things, discuss the Academy's youth tobacco-prevention activities and explore possible future directions based on input from other tobacco-prevention stakeholders.
  • Key thought leaders in attendance came from both the public and private sectors and represented physicians, public health entities, businesses and consumer groups.
  • One family physician business leader, in particular, is keenly interested in finding ways his company, GE Capital, can collaborate with the AAFP.

Summit facilitator Darshak Sanghavi, M.D., is a fellow and managing director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution, as well as associate professor of pediatrics and former chief of pediatric cardiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He opened the summit by discussing the importance of tobacco control in today's evolving outcomes-based health care environment and emphasized that partnerships are critical in addressing behavior change among tobacco users, disparities and eliminating initiation of tobacco use by youth.

Regina Shaefer, M.P.H., director of the division of tobacco control in the Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence at the AAP, told AAFP News that she hopes this is just the start of a larger cross-disciplinary conversation and collaboration on this topic. "AAP would like to be part of the continued discussion, offering leadership and collaborating on initiatives with the other organizations as appropriate," she said.

Shaefer said the AAP helps pediatricians address tobacco prevention and cessation in both their adolescent patients and the adults in those patients' families. "The goal is for every patient and family to be asked about tobacco use at every visit, with proper assistance and referral to quit resources and prevention guidance by the pediatrician and practice team," she noted. The AAP looks forward to continuing to partner with the AAFP, Schaefer added, including with tobacco-prevention programs.

One new tobacco-prevention campaign that is gaining national attention was discussed during the summit. On Feb. 11, the FDA launched its first national public education campaign designed to prevent young people from using tobacco and reduce the number of adolescents ages 12-17 who become regular smokers, according to Stephanie Yao, FDA press officer. The Real Cost campaign( uses visually compelling and personally relevant ads to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco use and to encourage them to be tobacco-free, said Yao, with a particular emphasis on reaching on-the-cusp young smokers -- the kids who have experimented already or who are one party away from smoking.

AAFP Offers Resources on Tobacco Cessation

The Academy has numerous resources designed to guide and inform members in their efforts to help tobacco users quit and prevent nonusers -- especially youth -- from ever starting. FPs also can steer patients toward instructional materials posted on the AAFP's award-winning patient education website,

Summit-goer Kathleen Crosby, director of health communications and education at the agency, added that the "AAFP is an important stakeholder to the FDA, and we're looking at the potential for future collaborations with the medical community, as well."

The American Legacy Foundation's truth campaign( also drew the stakeholders' attention. According to summit attendee Barbara de Nekker, assistant director of youth activism for the foundation, the organization is the largest nonprofit public health charity in the United States devoted specifically to tobacco control. Legacy's gritty, no-nonsense truth campaign features in-your-face advertising, frank commentary on the campaign's website and various social media platforms, and grassroots outreach through entertainment and sports events, said William Furmanski, senior vice president of collaboration and outreach.

"A growing body of research has confirmed the efficacy of the truth campaign in changing teens' attitudes and behaviors toward smoking," Furmanski told AAFP News. "A study( published in the May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that truth was directly responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years, from 2000 to 2004." Other studies also have illustrated the campaign's efficacy in reaching youth, Furmanski added, noting that Legacy previously announced its intent to infuse additional funds into the endeavor, with a new campaign, execution and direction set to launch sometime later this year.

One summit attendee, in particular, brought a unique perspective. Michael Todd, M.D., global medical director for GE Capital in Norwalk, Conn., does not work with kids directly, and his company doesn't have a tobacco-prevention program focused on this age group.

"That's why I'm here (at the summit)," Todd said. "I really see an opportunity for GE Capital to be more active in its communities. In the United States, GE Capital has more than 95 (work)sites. We could really do a great job educating families."

An AAFP member and second-generation family physician, Todd started in his role at GE Capital 18 months ago, he said. He is charged with leading the company's HealthAhead wellness program(, which includes physical activity, mental health, prevention and screening, and tobacco-cessation components.

Michael Todd, M.D., global medical director for GE Capital in Norwalk, Conn., talks about the tobacco-cessation component of the HealthAhead wellness program he oversees at GE.

The tobacco-cessation element of the program is in need of a refresh, Todd told AAFP News. "If you imagine a (work)site of 150 people, and they have been hammering people who smoke (with the same messaging) for five years," he said. "They get down to the five or 10 people who still smoke, and they can only present the same message a certain number of times. So a lot of the energy of the cessation program has been lost."

As a resident of and practicing family physician in Cincinnati, Todd was involved in the Tar Wars program, and that is why he reached out to the Connecticut AFP and AAFP tobacco-cessation program leaders to see how GE Capital and AAFP could work in unison.

"I was looking back at my experience with Tar Wars and had intimate knowledge of it, being involved," he said. "And knowing that family doctors are in practice all over the country, I knew we had a population of family physicians who may be able to be engaged in helping some of these (GE) sites."

Todd said that any ideas he was able to take away from the summit back to GE Capital could drive a new tobacco-cessation initiative to 47,000 people. And he added that the summit was a great outlet for all participants to present, receive and collaborate on new ideas.

"What I've learned in business and the corporate world is, 'Collaboration is key,'" he said. "Diversity of ideas is always going to yield a better outcome."

For example, Todd continued, "It would be interesting to know what the CDC is promoting in comparison to a smaller organization that might be more 'boots on the ground.' You're going to find best practices amongst them all. That's where you can really begin to sharpen your tool and focus your energies in the appropriate spots."