Yakima County smoking figures questionable

Hispanic population under-represented in state survey

A Washington State Department of Health survey shows that the smoking rate among adults in Yakima County remains less than the state average of 17 percent by three-tenth's of 1 percent.

But at least one Sunnyside resident wonders if those numbers stack up, considering the Yakima County survey only quizzed 523 residents and more than 80 percent of those identified themselves as white.

Hispanics, however, represent about 45 percent of the county's population.

The survey, then, doesn't give a true picture of the county's smoking rate, says Genoveva Ibarra, who works with the Fred Hutchinson group in Sunnyside, a satellite of a Seattle-based cancer treatment center. The local Sunnyside group is also involved in campaigns focused on reducing the number of smokers.

"I don't think we are represented accurately," Ibarra said of the Yakima County survey. She says the Department of Health could do more in reaching the county's large Hispanic population, such as not relying solely on phone interviews.

"There are a lot of things that can be done," Ibarra observes. "They (DOH) need to go to where the people are. People work all day and are tired."

Ibarra also advises the DOH utilize more Spanish speakers in conducting the phone surveys. "It depends on how it's presented," she said of the DOH survey. "They need someone who fluently speaks their language and speaks to their culture."

Chelsea Snodgrass is a tobacco control coordinator with the American Lung Association's Yakima office. She feels the DOH figures adequately represent Yakima County.

"It doesn't mean they didn't try," Snodgrass says of reaching the Hispanic community. "Surveys are really challenging and they (DOH) can only do so much."

Yet Snodgrass admitted the figures for Yakima County literally do not add up, noting that 81 percent of those surveyed said they are white and 27 percent identified themselves as Hispanic.

Snodgrass said the American Lung Association just wrapped up planning for an anti-smoking outreach effort that will be directed towards the Latino population. "It will be Latino specific and more culturally appropriate," she said.

'Quit and Win'

anti-smoking effort starts in November

The Sunnyside Fred Hutchinson group is also gearing up for an anti-smoking drive to coincide with the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15.

Called "Quit and Win", the program will work in conjunction with the American Lung Association and Granger radio station KDNA to provide incentives for people to stop smoking.

As participants reach different goals in their effort to stop smoking they will receive prizes.

Ibarra said a similar program was done four years ago, awarding a first place prize of $500, as well as other awards such as new car tires and travel vouchers. Raffle prizes were also distributed.

Ibarra said a popular feature of "Quit and Win" was calls that participants received every three days to monitor their progress towards breaking the smoking habit.

For more information on "Quit and Win" or other efforts of the Sunnyside Fred Hutchinson group, such as cancer awareness classes and anti-smoking talks, call 837-6359 or 1-866-809-6846.

The DOH also offers a toll-free tobacco quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The line is available in Spanish at 1-877-2NO-FUME. More information on the quit line can be found at www.quitline.com



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