Featured R2R Partners
Philip Huang, MD, MPH
Dr. Huang is currently the Medical Director and Health Authority for the Austin/Travis County Health Department where his responsibilities include communicable disease control, emergency preparedness, epidemiology and surveillance, immunizations, environmental health, and chronic disease prevention.
Prior to this, he served as Medical Director for Chronic Disease Prevention at the Texas Department of State Health Services and Chief of the Bureau of Chronic Disease and Tobacco Prevention at the former Texas Department of Health (TDH).
Dr. Huang received his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Rice University, his MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and his Master’s in Public Health from Harvard with a concentration in Health Policy and Management. While at Harvard he led the successful movement to have Harvard divest of their tobacco stocks. Dr. Huang completed his residency training in Family Medicine at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, and was Chief Resident during his final year. He served two years as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assigned to the Illinois Department of Public Health where he conducted epidemiologic studies in chronic disease and infectious disease outbreak investigations.
He is an author or co-author of numerous publications related to public health, chronic disease and tobacco use prevention. Dr. Huang has a strong interest in addressing health from a broad perspective, including use of community policy and environmental change to make healthy choices the easy choice and to promote public health. Dr. Huang is Board Certified in Family Medicine.
Questions and Answers
We are currently working on so many things; I will mention our work partnering with multiple sectors such as schools, worksites, healthcare, and the community to bring sustainable change to increase access to healthy food, promote physical activity, and reduce the burden of tobacco use. Of course our simple summary is to make the healthy choice the easy choice where people live, work and play.
We were very fortunate to have received the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) funding from CDC, which were focused on policy, system and environmental change efforts to decrease the burden of tobacco use in our community. Subsequently, we received Community Transformation Grant (CTG) Funding that we have used to extend those same partnerships and principles to address physical activity and nutrition in addition to tobacco prevention and control. One example of this work is the great partnership that we have with our city Planning Development and Review Department (PDRD) to connect the built environment to community health. One of the assistant directors in PDRD, Garner Stoll, came with us to the Community Transformation Grant Action Institute, and immediately upon return he pulled together a team with our Transportation and Public Works Departments to identify ways to improve the City’s Subdivision Regulations and the Transportation Criteria Manual to ensure complete streets and compact and connected future development that will promote active living. There was a nice write-up on the Community Transformation Grant that appeared in the October 2013 issue of Planning Magazine (Magazine of the American Planning Association) that highlighted Austin’s partnership between health and planning.
I am particularly proud of our work with 100% tobacco free campus policies in various worksite, school, community and healthcare settings. At the beginning of the CPPW funding period, the City of Austin already had a comprehensive clean indoor smoking law that included restaurants and bars. CPPW and CTG funding enabled us to further expand provisions protecting persons from secondhand smoke and increasing cessation by promoting tobacco-free campus policies that included outdoor areas.
Our CPPW/CTG chronic disease staff have promoted and helped implement these tobacco-free campus policies by providing technical support that includes draft policies, implementation timelines and templates, signage, linkage to free cessation resources, and promotional materials. The following organizations are just a partial list of those that have successfully implemented 100% tobacco-free campus policies: All of our indigent care clinics (Central Health, Community Care, People’s Community Clinic, El Buen Samaritano), Seton Family of Hospitals (upgraded from smoke-free to tobacco-free campus), St. David’s Healthcare network, Austin/Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC), Travis County, Dell Computer, Samsung, National Instruments, 3M, Capitol Metro, Austin Community College (100% Smoke-free), Huston-Tillotson University, The University of Texas at Austin, City of Austin Libraries, Austin/Travis County Health and Human services Department, Austin Resource Recovery and City of Austin Parks (Smokefree). In addition, we are now seeing many of our multi-unit housing facilities, both high end and low income, adopting smoke-free policies.
One of the big lessons learned that we continue to see over and over again, is how popular tobacco-free campus policies ultimately are, and how effective they are at changing employee behavior. Dell Computer shared with other employers at one of our Mayor’s Health and Fitness Council meetings, that employers could expect “a lot of noise” during the first few months of implementation of a tobacco-free campus policy. But what surprised them, was that after a couple of months, they started getting emails from some of the employees that had initially been most vocally opposed to the policies, saying “thank you for doing this, I quit smoking , and it changed my life.” Dell Computer also reported that their smoking rates among their employees dropped from 13% down to 3% as a result of a combination of their policy and offering cessation services. National Instruments reported that their employee smoking rates dropped from 9% down to 6% in just the first six months after they implemented their 100% tobacco-free campus policy.
One healthcare site that deserves particular attention is the Austin/Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC), our local mental health and substance abuse authority. When you think about the culture in those settings, tobacco use used to be seen as the less important of the addictions with which they were addressing, and they even used to hand out cigarettes as rewards to their patients. The Executive Director, David Evans of ATCIC however, recognized that the patients that their agency serves were dying 25 years younger than the general population, and it was largely due to tobacco-related illness. As a result he provided the leadership for the effort to implement a comprehensive 100% tobacco-free campus policy at their 36 ATCIC outpatient location sites and four residential treatment facilities. What is particularly gratifying is that ATCIC has since reported that tobacco use rates among their staff have dropped from 28% down to 10.2%.
I always like to refer to the work of the U.S. Community Preventive Services Task Force on the various issues. Also, I am hopeful that the recently released Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress will re-energize efforts to continue to address this issue.