School of public health receives $3.15 million grant to enhance mindfulness-based smoking cessation


Credit: Georgia State

Researchers in Georgia State University’s School of Public Health have been awarded a five-year, $3.15 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Cancer Institute to further develop and evaluate a text messaging program to help people quit smoking.

The program, iQuit Mindfully, combines mobile health technology (mHealth) with mindfulness training to provide round-the-clock smoking cessation support for low-income smokers. The study will be led by Claire Spears, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences in the School of Public Health.

“The mindfulness program involves different types of meditation, mindful eating and gentle yoga, along with mindfulness practices to cope with cravings and stress,” Spears said. “Practicing mindfulness can help smokers to ride out cravings and choose healthier ways to respond instead of automatically lighting up a cigarette. Because most mindfulness research has focused on more affluent and white populations, we are committed to expanding the benefits of mindfulness to low-income and racially and ethnically diverse adults.”

A 2019 pilot study showed iQuit Mindfully is feasible as a complement to in-person mindfulness-based treatment for smoking cessation. The study also found the technology is perhaps most effective for diverse, underserved adult populations of low socioeconomic status. More than 23 percent of participants living in poverty who received text messages via iQuit Mindfully had quit smoking at end of treatment and at a one-month follow-up, while none of those living in poverty had quit at the end of the in-person-only treatment.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and minority adults of low socio-economic status have lower access to smoking cessation resources, are less likely to quit and more likely to experience cancers caused by tobacco use.

The grant will fund a study to test the effectiveness of personalized and interactive iQuit Mindfully text messages among this demographic compared to in-person mindfulness-based addiction treatment and usual care. The researchers will also investigate the mechanisms through which both methods affect smoking cessation.

The study’s co-investigators are Michael Eriksen, interim vice president for Research and Economic Development, Regents’ Professor and founding dean of the School of Public Health; Matt Hayat, professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health; David Wetter, the director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity at the University of Utah and the Huntsman Cancer Institute; and Donald Hedeker, professor of biostatistics at the University of Chicago.


Learn more about the grant at the NIH Project RePORTER website.

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