Partnerships with Local Stakeholders
Local partnerships can be critical to effectively decreasing rates of tobacco use and preventing initiation of tobacco use in a rural community. It is important to secure buy-in from respected leaders and existing networks of local stakeholders in the community who may be interested in supporting tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.
Local businesses can be especially important partners in tobacco cessation efforts, as many people are exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace, and tobacco use can reduce productivity. Research suggests that consumers may be unaware of tobacco cessation services that are covered by their insurance. Employers can play a role by providing information to employees about their health plan's coverage for tobacco cessation counseling and pharmacotherapy.
Program planners may also ask local businesses and community-and faith-based organizations to display educational information about the state quitline, details about cessation resources in the community, or messaging about tobacco prevention.
Some rural communities form or join formal tobacco control coalitions in order to share limited resources, build support, and create united strategies for policy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a guide about tobacco coalitions that describes characteristics of effective coalitions.
Partnerships with State Tobacco Control Programs and Public Health Agencies
Local tobacco cessation and prevention programs may choose to partner with state-wide tobacco control programs in order to capitalize on existing resources and share consistent messaging. For example, rural communities have found that mass-reach communications efforts are most effective when there is a “united voice” across the state.
Through a joint effort, North Dakota was successful in implementing tobacco prevention media messages through TV and radio advertisements, press releases, and event participation. The North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (BreatheND) worked with local public health units across the state to focus on the denormalization of tobacco through mass media to meet the goal of changing the social norm of tobacco use. While each local public health unit had different priorities, such as tobacco-free parks or tobacco-free multi-unit housing, the center provided tools and resources to the local public health units to address these priorities. Mass media efforts were co-branded with the local public health unit and BreatheND.
Program planners may also attempt to facilitate relationships between state quitlines and local healthcare providers. Rural clinics with limited resources to provide tobacco cessation services may benefit from referring patients to quitlines that can provide telephone counseling and assistance with accessing tobacco cessation medication. However, some rural providers may be hesitant to refer their patients to services outside of the community. Additional information about the quitline's services and medications that they can offer may help address the concerns of rural providers.
Partnerships with National Organizations
National organizations focused on tobacco issues—including the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association—can partner with rural communities to promote tobacco prevention and cessation activities. Local chapters of these organizations can provide resources and tools to rural communities with limited funding for tobacco control activities. For example, the American Lung Association worked with schools in rural Southwestern Virginia to support tobacco-free schools.