Smoking prevalence has decreased in the United States and in England, but still runs at around 15% in the U.S. and a little higher in England. There are a number of smoking programs available which consistently show a benefit over controls, yet many people do not access these programs. This study released online today in Lancet shows the effectiveness of using some current-day marketing theory. People received a personalized letter, and the offer of a free taster session for a smoking cessation program. This minimal intervention, compared to a standard form letter, doubled the number of people attending the cessation program and almost doubled the number of verified abstainers.
These results remind me of a recent study on obesity (see January 4 post) where a simple personalized approach (which included making an appointment) notably increased participation and successful weight loss. Of note, both of these studies made the offers to anyone who met the health need, and did not restrict the offers to people asking for help or those who deemed ready for action.
Both of these studies were enabled by electronic medical records (EMRs) that could easily identify people at risk. In the United States we hear a lot about the difficulties posed by the the Meaningful Use requirements for EMRs, but these requirements are actually quite simple, and focused on population health use, such as the two studies discussed here.