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Vermont DoH Encourages Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Thousands of Vermont adults will be making, or already have made, a New Year’s Resolution. Two resolutions that can improve the state’s overall health are the decision to quit smoking, and to drink alcoholic beverages more responsibly – or not at all.

“The United Health Foundation recently ranked Vermont the healthiest state in the nation for the second year in a row in 2008, but our approach has always been: ‘We can do better,’” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. “Our smoking and binge drinking rates are still too high and continue to be areas where there is significant room for improvement.”

Forty-nine percent of Vermonters ages 18-25 reported binge drinking in the past 30 days, according to the 2008 Health Status of Vermonters report, well above the national average of 42 percent. Overall drinking rates for Vermont adults exceed the national average, with more than 65 percent of Vermont adults having had a drink in the last month, compared to 56 percent for the nation as a whole.

The Health Department’s approach to binge drinking has been to address the problem at the community level, especially among young adults who need to understand the serious health and safety consequences of drinking to excess. Vermont currently has 34 substance abuse coalitions throughout the state that work to prevent problems before they develop, such as providing alcohol-free social alternatives for youth, and conducting social skills classes for children and parents.

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“The new year can be a time of reflection when people can assess their alcohol use, especially young adults, parents and guardians who are important role models,” said Deputy Commissioner Barbara Cimaglio. “Alcohol is still the primary substance abused in our state. We need to change perceptions about alcohol use in the same way we have changed our perception about the dangers of smoking.”

Despite significant declines in recent years, 18 percent of Vermont adults still smoke cigarettes, according to the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. This is below the national rate of 20 percent, however young adults and lower income adults continue to smoke at rates well above the state average.

As we move into 2009, the Health Department is providing a suite of new tools from the Vermont Quit Network, including pedometers, distraction putty, worry stones, quit coaching podcasts, mini quit tip cards, free nicotine gum, and patches or lozenges that can be delivered directly to a smokers’ home.

“One of the great thing about quitting smoking is that the benefits start almost immediately,” Sheri Lynn, tobacco control chief for the Vermont Department of Health. “Twenty minutes after quitting, a smoker’s heart rate and blood pressure drop. Twelve hours later, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal.

“Another powerful incentive is limiting children’s exposure to secondhand smoke,” Lynn said. “Nearly 65 percent of smoking parents reported that their child had been exposed to secondhand smoke in the previous week.”

No-smoking policies, social marketing and public education campaigns, counseling and support in the workplace, health care settings, schools, public places and at home, contribute to improving the state's overall health. But none of those campaigns can remain successful without an individual resolve to live a healthier lifestyle in 2009.