Project Connect volunteers honored for helping Delawareans quit smoking

Twelve Christiana Care volunteers were honored with the 2017 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Award for their work in Project Connect, an innovative program that connects hospital patients to evidence-based treatment to help them stop tobacco use. The ceremony took place Oct. 25 at Dover Downs Hotel.

Through Project Connect, trained Christiana Care volunteers visit patients at their bedside and engage them in conversation regarding their tobacco use. They connect the patients to evidence-based treatments and community resources, and they also follow up with them after discharge from the hospital, letting them know that they are still available to connect them to resources to quit if they still struggle with tobacco use.

Project Connect volunteers include former smokers, retired nurses and health behavior science students who meet with patients at Christiana Care’s Center for Heart & Vascular Health. Project Connect originated from the Million Hearts Delaware initiative, a public/private statewide effort aimed at reducing the number of heart attacks and strokes nationwide.

As a result of Project Connect, the statewide average number of monthly fax referrals to the Delaware Quitline increased to 24 from five — a five-fold increase. Follow-up surveys on Project Connect have found that 37 percent of the patients reported quitting smoking at three months post-discharge.

Due to the initial success of Project Connect, the program now includes a full-time tobacco treatment specialist who meets with hospital patients, while volunteers continue to support the program.

Twice a year, Gov. John Carney recognizes the efforts of Delawareans who best exemplify the spirit of volunteerism throughout the state. The Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Awards are sponsored by the Office of the Governor, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Division of State Service Centers, the State Office of Volunteerism and the Governor’s Commission on Community and Volunteer Service.