Study will pay pregnant BadgerCare Plus recipients - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Study will pay pregnant BadgerCare Plus recipients hoping to quit smoking

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - It is pretty common knowledge that pregnant women should not smoke. But new numbers indicate a sizeable number of pregnant women in Eau Claire County are still lighting up. Now, there's a new initiative that offers cash to some pregnant smokers to encourage them to quit.

"Not just medications, not just counseling, not just education, but all of those together need to be there," said Lieske Giese, Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director.

A well-rounded approach to helping pregnant women stop smoking; that's the idea behind the Wisconsin's Striving to Quit study.

"Women that smoke are more likely to have a low birth weight baby, more likely to have pre-term labor and an early delivery, all things that really impact that baby's health," Giese explained.

The health risks are a big concern nationwide; 9% of pregnant women smoke. The numbers are even higher here.

"The state is at almost 14% of women that are pregnant smoke, and in Eau Claire County we're at 16%. So we are doing worse in the county than we are at the state, and the state is already in a tough spot," said Giese.

So the question is why?

"Part of it is that acceptance issue. We think that there is a relationship between community acceptance of something like smoking and people's actual rates," Giese said.

That's why this summer, health departments started working on Striving to Quit, which is funded by $9 million in federal grants.

"This program is very specifically looking at adding more intensive counseling for women who are smoking and pregnant, paying for that counseling, and providing cash incentives for completion of the program," added Giese

Yet it's only for BadgerCare Plus members, so why the special attention? One Eau Claire County prenatal BadgerCare group may provide some clues.

"44 percent of those women smoke, so we know that there's a difference in that population, and we really need to work to improve that," Giese said.

As part of the study, BadgerCare Plus members will be paid for attending the counseling. The hope is that offering some incentive will help drive people to seek treatment. Health officials won't tell us exactly how much, but they say participants can earn a 'significant' amount of money.

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