Alegent Health, Methodist Health System Receive Community Award for Tobacco-Free Stance
Release Date: 12/08/2006

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The Public Relations Society of America-Nebraska Chapter is honoring both Health Systems with the Community Service Award

OMAHA, Neb. — Alegent Health is pleased to be recognized with the Community Service Award by the Public Relations Society of America-Nebraska Chapter for the tobacco free pledge it recently enacted with Methodist Health System to protect patients, visitors, employees and physicians from the adverse effects of tobacco products. Alegent Health President Rick Hachten II, FACHE along with Methodist Health System Chief Operating Officer Steve Goeser were on hand to accept this prestigious honor at the annual PRSA Gala and Awards Banquet which took place December 7, 2006 at Omaha’s historic Paxton building.

“We are extremely honored to stand together with Methodist in receiving the Community Service Award. Tobacco use continues to be the number one cause of preventable death in America and as a health care leader in the community, Alegent Health feels it is our moral obligation to protect everyone from the adverse effects of second-hand smoke, while they are in our care or on our property,” said Hachten. “By banning the use of tobacco products on our properties, we are helping our patients, visitors and our own employees take charge of their own health and wellness.”

The Community Service Award is one of five PRSA Chapter Awards handed out each year. The award recognizes an organization or business that has made a significant contribution to the common good of the community through participation in important activities and through this service has reflected credit on the professional practices of public relations.

A year ago, Alegent Health and Methodist Health System jointly announced the formation of the Tobacco Free for Health Coalition, pledging to be completely tobacco free by November 16, 2006. The hospitals instituting this tobacco-free policy include Bergan Mercy Medical Center, Immanuel Medical Center, Lakeside Hospital, Methodist Hospital and Select Specialty Hospital in Omaha, Midlands Hospital and Select Specialty Hospital in Papillion, Jennie Edmundson Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Memorial Hospital in Schuyler (Neb.), Community Memorial Hospital in Missouri Valley (Iowa) and Mercy Hospital in Corning (Iowa). The tobacco ban also extends to medical clinics owned and operated by the health systems.

Since making the public announcement, both health systems put up signs announcing the implementation of the tobacco-free initiative. In January, Alegent Health began offering tobacco cessation classes and alternatives to tobacco for both employees and the public while on campus. Methodist is assisting its employees through an incentive to help pay for enrollment in a smoking cessation program that combines the use of nicotine replacement products and behavioral changes through its EAP. Quit Smart classes are available to the public and nicotine replacement products can be purchased in the hospital gift shop.

Beginning Nov. 16, 2006 patients and visitors found using tobacco products on a health system property will be provided with information outlining the Tobacco Free for Health Policy and a list of smoking cessation educational opportunities. In addition, all employees will have received training on the new policy and how to address issues that might arise. Any employee founding in direct violation of the initiative will initially be reminded of the tobacco-free policy and any subsequent violations will result in corrective action and possible termination.

Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with nine acute care hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,200 physicians on its medical staff and roughly 8,500 employees. Alegent Health is making healthcare better with an exceptional commitment to quality and by providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is sponsored by Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems.

The mission of the Public Relations Society of American is to advance the profession of public relations. PRSA is the world’s largest organization for public relations professionals. Its nearly 20,000 members, organized into 112 Chapters, represent business and in industry, technology, counseling firms, government, associations, hospitals, schools, professional services firms and nonprofit organizations. The Nebraska Chapter has more than 200 members.