2010-05-12 / Community

Miller County Coalition continues fight for tobacco-free community

by Mandy Flynn

The Miller County Tobacco Coalition recently recognized the Miller County School System for its adoption of a 100% Tobacco Free Schools policy. Pictured during the presentation are (from left): Sheila Freeman, executive director, Spring Creek Health Cooperative; David Cooper, health promotion coordinator, Southwest Public Health District; Robbie Phillips, superintendent, Miller County School System; Leigh Thompson, executive director, Miller County Collaborative; Denise Ballard, vice president, Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition. The Miller County Tobacco Coalition recently recognized the Miller County School System for its adoption of a 100% Tobacco Free Schools policy. Pictured during the presentation are (from left): Sheila Freeman, executive director, Spring Creek Health Cooperative; David Cooper, health promotion coordinator, Southwest Public Health District; Robbie Phillips, superintendent, Miller County School System; Leigh Thompson, executive director, Miller County Collaborative; Denise Ballard, vice president, Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition. Colquitt– The fight against tobacco use in Miller County is gaining strength as members of the business community and other concerned citizens continue their focus on cessation and youth prevention programs, including smoking policy changes and enforcement in local public schools.

As part of this movement, Miller County School System made a large commitment to the cause recently with the adoption of a 100% Tobacco Free Schools policy. Miller County Schools Superintendent Robbie Phillips accepted an award in recognition of the system’s progressive action during a recent meeting of the Miller County Tobacco Coalition.

“We are so proud of our school system for taking this stand,” said Alida Ward, director of the Miller County Health Department. “It’s a major step toward preventing youth from taking up a habit that often leads to disability or death,” she added.

Efforts of the Miller County Tobacco Coalition are being funded with a $50,000 grant to the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition from the Georgia Department of Community Health, and are specifically focused to reduce tobaccorelated health disparities in Miller County. According to 2001-2005 Georgia Department of Human Resources data, Miller County ranked third highest of all Georgia counties in lung cancer incidence among Caucasian males.

Last year, the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition contracted with Mercer University School of Medicine to conduct a community-wide assessment that revealed high smoking rates among youth, men and pregnant women in Miller County.

According to Denise Ballard, vice president of Cancer Prevention and Control with the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, these are the priority audiences for prevention and cessation efforts.

Funded for two years, the first year of the project focused on developing the community wide Miller County Tobacco Coalition. The Coalition includes representatives from the Miller County

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