Partnership Provides Help to Smokers

Respiratory Health Association and Harmony/Wellcare Health Plans Inc. Pilot Targeted Courage to Quit® Leader Training

Chicago area smokers who traditionally have difficulty accessing smoking cessation services may now find it easier to get help with quitting. Respiratory Health Association (RHA) recently collaborated with Harmony Health Plan, Inc., a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans Inc., to provide Courage to Quit® leader training for organizations that serve high-tobacco use populations, such as the medically underserved, individuals with mental illness and/or substance abuse, homeless individuals, and families with low-economic status.

Courage to Quit® (CTQ) is RHA’s evidence-based adult smoking cessation program, available in multiple formats with flexible content that can be customized for delivery. The Courage to Quit® program’s effectiveness has been highlighted in the American Journal of Public Health. Upon completing the one-day training, CTQ leaders are equipped to bring the program to those they serve.

“The Courage to Quit® training prepares leaders to understand the needs of smokers,” said Emily Zadikoff, Director of Tobacco Control Programs for RHA. “Research shows that on average it can take over six attempts before a smoker successfully quits for good. In our program, the leader works collaboratively with the individual to build on past attempts, create confidence, and develop their skills and readiness.”

Harmony provided a grant to allow new community organizations to build their capacity to deliver smoking cessation services in and around the city of Chicago.  The Harmony leaders have had nearly half of class participants (47%) complete the Courage to Quit® program and of those, 21%  quit smoking by the end of the program.

“One participant had tried eight or nine times to quit,” said Joanie Padilla, Director of Health Education and Emergency Preparedness at Ogle County Health Department. “The Courage to Quit program is designed to accommodate smokers where they are at in the quit process, so this person’s group built good rapport and created a space of support and honesty as they progressed to their quit dates.”

The 21% quit rate among Harmony participants is higher than national quit rates. Individual counseling reports a 6-month abstinence rate of 16.8% on average, the national group smoking cessation counseling rate is 13.9%, and tobacco quit lines report estimated 6-month abstinence rates of 12.7%.

Not only is the 21% quit rate among Harmony participants higher than several national averages, but the programs also reached high-risk and underserved population groups. 

In addition to the high quit rate, 64% of Courage to Quit® program completers decreased the number of cigarettes smoked per day. This change in behavior is another measure of the program’s success, as the reduction will contribute to each participant’s goal to become smoke-free.

“It’s hard to quit smoking. Everyone who tries faces challenges and fears about being excluded from social situations, gaining weight, dealing with stress,” said Dr. Robin Jones, Medical Director for Harmony Health Plan. “However the most vulnerable in our society have unique barriers like access to cessation programs and information that make it especially hard to quit smoking. Harmony Health Plan is proud to partner with the Courage to Quit® program to ensure all Chicagoans have the chance to live better, healthier lives.”

“I’m really grateful to Harmony and Respiratory Health Association for the opportunity to become a Courage to Quit® leader, “said Padilla. “No one in our county has been offering cessation services because of tight budgets. Making the training available to me means I can offer free classes for underserved individuals in our communities who need support to quit smoking.”

The Courage to Quit® program leader training is available to health educators, community health workers, social workers and others interested in providing effective tools to others who want to quit smoking.

For more information, contact Lainie Kast, Program Manager, via email at or by phone at (312) 628-0241.