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Dr. Patricia Chalela of UT Health San Antonio has received a new five-year, $2 million research grant to test the impact of Quitxt, a bilingual text messaging program that helps Latino young adults in South Texas to quit smoking.
The grant is among $90 million for new cancer prevention and research projects from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).
For the grant, Dr. Chalela and her team will recruit 1,200 Latino smokers ages 18-29 who agree to try to quit smoking.
Half will receive Quitxt, a free texting service with culturally appropriate visual, video, and audio content fueled with evidence-based techniques to prompt and sustain smoking cessation. The other half will get abbreviated text messages and referral to the “Yes Quit” smoking cessation program from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Researchers will compare each group’s outcomes.
“We hope to advance public health by evaluating the effectiveness of Quitxt, a scalable, easily disseminated and adaptable intervention to help young adults, especially Latinos, quit smoking and reduce smoking-related cancer and chronic disease morbidity and mortality and their associated healthcare costs,” said Dr. Chalela, associate professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the Department of Population Health Sciences at UT Health San Antonio.
The Problem of Smoking in South Texas
In the South Texas study region, 19.2% of Latinos ages 18-29 are current smokers. This heightens their risk of cancer and heart disease.
Quitting smoking by age 30 comes with many more benefits than quitting later in life, including gaining 10 years of life, compared with those who continue to smoke, said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, co-investigator on Dr. Chalela’s new study and professor and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research in at UT Health San Antonio.
However, few culturally relevant programs target this problem.
“Despite major advances in tobacco control and treatment, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in the US,” said Dr. Ramirez. “That is why people who smoke need programs like Quitxt to help them quit for good.”
What Is the Quitxt Program?
Dr. Ramirez launched Quitxt in 2015 with support by CPRIT.
To create the Quitxt texting service, Drs. Ramirez and Chalela and their team at UT Health San Antonio joined with Dr. David Akopian’s software development team at UT San Antonio. Together they adapted parts of proven federal tobacco cessation programs and built a texting system to fit the unique culture and linguistic styles of Latino young adults who smoke tobacco cigarettes across South Texas, from San Antonio to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
When someone joins Quitxt, they get regular text messages with content—links to online information, real-time support, real role model testimonials, videos, and music—which helps users with motivation to quit, setting a quit date, handling stress, considering nicotine replacement, and more.
“Text messages and social media have an extraordinary potential to aid smoking cessation by providing peer modeling and eliciting social reinforcement for behavior change,” Ramirez said.
Growth of the Quitxt Program
In 2016, Quitxt added a Spanish version.
In 2017, Drs. Ramirez and Chalela received a CPRIT grant to expand Quitxt with a new social media support component. In 2018, Drs. Ramirez and Chalela received another CPRIT grant to enable local primary care and cancer doctors to assess patients’ smoking, counsel them to quit, refer them to join Quitxt, and track their progress.
The new study builds on this work.
Dr. Chalela will randomly assign 600 Latino smokers in South Texas to use Quitxt to try to quit, and 600 to use the state’s Yes Quit program. They will conduct biological tests to validate smoking cessation at one, three, and six months later.
“We hypothesize that the group receiving the Quitxt intervention will achieve significantly higher smoking cessation rates than the group receiving usual care,” Dr. Chalela said. “This study will expand research on the health of young adult Latinos by testing an innovative, mobile, culturally, and linguistically appropriate intervention to reduce smoking among young adult Latino smokers by enhancing their skills development, competence, and self-efficacy to initiate and maintain cessation.”
Does Quitxt Really Work?
Text support is proven to double your odds of quitting.
In a preliminary study, more than 1 in 5 Quitxt users fully quit smoking after completing the English version, according to Dr. Ramirez’s 2017 study in the journal Health Promotion Practice.
This quit rate is similar or better than other texting programs.
The study also confirms that text and mobile-media service specifically designed for young adults provide a feasible and potentially cost-effective approach to promoting cessation, according to the researchers led by Dr. Ramirez.
“There’s no better time than now to stop smoking with help from Quitxt,” Dr. Ramirez said. “Quitting smoking is proven to improve your health, increase your life span, and save money.”
Quit Smoking with Quitxt
If you’re interested in quitting smoking, try Quitxt!
- Join Quitxt in English: Text “iquit” to 844-332-2058.
- Join Quitxt in Spanish: Text “lodejo” to 844-332-2058.
You can also join a version of Quitxt to help with quitting vaping.
- Join Quitxt in English: Text “iquit” to 844-406-1017.
- Join Quitxt in Spanish: Text “lodejo” to 844-406-1017.
Visit the Quitxt website for more information and tools in both English and Spanish that can help you or someone you know quit smoking or vaping today!
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By The Numbers
Expected rise in Latino cancer cases in coming years