Houston VA Targets the Nation’s Leading Killer
May 24, 2012
In an effort to improve the health of Veterans, volunteers, visitors, and staff, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) will severely limit smoking on its campus this year. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States.
“Tobacco smoke is a proven health hazard that affects both smokers and non-smokers,” said Medical Center Chief of Staff J. Kalavar, M.D. “The decision to change our smoking policy reflects the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center’s commitment to improve the health of our Nation’s heroes.”
Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers.
The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers.
Smoking at the MEDVAMC will only be allowed in designated smoking areas. Veterans, employees, volunteers, and visitors will be ticketed and/or fined for smoking outside of these designated areas.
A study by the Institute of Medicine, requested by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon, revealed that one in three service members use tobacco, compared with one in five adult Americans. Combat veterans are 50 percent more likely to use tobacco than troops who have not seen combat.
The MEDVAMC offers a wide range of assistance to help reduce nicotine addiction including smoking cessation classes, step-by-step manuals, one-on-one counseling, prescription medications, nicotine replacement products, and other related items. Veterans should talk with their VA health care team today about available options.
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Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 130,000 Veterans in southeast Texas and provides some of the most complex care within the VA Health Care System. The DeBakey VA employs nearly 3,600 staff and is one of 49 institutions within the prestigious Texas Medical Center, one of the largest health and research centers in the world. The DeBakey VA is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; $26.8 million Research and Development Program; and Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Center. The hospital offers sophisticated, cutting-edge technology such as PET/CT imaging, the Evident™ microwave ablation system, a CyberKnife®, a Varian Trilogy linear accelerator, a Philips Wide Bore Computed Tomography Simulator, the OR•Control System, the Abiomed Impella 2.5 catheter-based heart pump, and the Sapien heart valve. For more than 60 years, the DeBakey VA has served as the primary teaching facility for our major affiliate, Baylor College of Medicine and operates one of the largest VA residency programs in the nation. Each academic year, more than 2,179 students are trained through 194 affiliation agreements with institutions of higher learning. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, Richmond, and Texas City, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged almost 1.3 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2011.