The Manitoba government announced a new program Friday morning in an effort to encourage more Manitobans to quit smoking.
According to Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard, about 220,000 Manitobans currently smoke, causing short-term and long-term health effects for themselves and those around them.
On Friday, the Manitoba government launched its first health-related social impact bond, Quit Smoking with Your Manitoba Pharmacist.
"Manitoba is a proud partner in this initiative and the positive benefits it will have for thousands of people," says Guillemard. "The costs of smoking to the individual and their health and to our health-care system as a whole are significant."
The Quit Smoking with Your Manitoba Pharmacist social impact bond is expected to enrol up to 4,500 people across the province over a three-year period. Smokers who are ready to quit will be supported by one of more than 500 Manitoba pharmacists who are trained in smoking cessation tools and supports.
The success of the social impact bond will be measured by the number of individuals who participate in an initial assessment with a trained pharmacist, quit smoking for at least 12 months and continue to abstain from nicotine after 24 months.
Under the social impact bond model, Shoppers Drug Mart will invest $2 million to fund these activities. If outcomes are met or exceeded, the company will receive up to $2.12 million from the Manitoba government.
"Quitting smoking is difficult and most people need to try more than once to be able to quit successfully," says Health Minister Audrey Gordon. "The goal of Quit Smoking with Your Manitoba Pharmacist is to increase the success rate of people who are ready to quit by making it convenient to access the right supports and resources at their local pharmacies."
Manitobans over the age of 18 are eligible for assistance and can approach participating pharmacies for an initial assessment. Follow-up counselling sessions and up to $100 worth of prescribed medications and nicotine replacement therapies will be offered over one year to support individuals in their journey to quit.
"Evidence shows that individuals attempting to quit tobacco products have the best chance of success when counselling from a health-care professional is combined with effective medication treatment to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms," says Darren Murphy, President, Pharmacists Manitoba. "Pharmacists have the skills and expertise in tobacco cessation to help Manitobans develop a personalized quit plan and follow through. As the most accessible health-care professionals, pharmacists serve communities across Manitoba and are excited at the opportunity to help address one of the most important public health issues our province faces."
Gordon notes that in addition to the personal health improvements for participants, this work is projected to result in healthcare savings to the province of more than $1 million per year.
"The health risks associated with smoking are among the costliest and the most preventable. Pharmacists are trained to support patients through their smoking cessation journey by providing counsel and using different approaches and tools based on individual needs," says Jeff Leger, President, Shoppers Drug Mart. "We believe this collaborative program and our ability to work with patients, the Manitoba government and Pharmacists Manitoba will help make our province healthier."
Winnipeg-based insurance and benefits provider Canada Life and its subsidiary ClaimSecure Inc. are providing its technology to simplify and streamline the process.