Postdoctoral fellowship to explore strategies for countering tobacco consumptionStop smoking—but how?
10 November 2021, by Christina Krätzig
Photo: Pixabay CC0
Although the consumption of tobacco can make a treatment more difficult, up to 50 percent of cancer patients continue to smoke during their treatment.
For the second time, Universität Hamburg—University of Excellence has awarded fellowships to 4 outstanding early career researchers, among them is public health researcher Dr. Kathleen Gali. She is investigating how smokers with cancer can be helped to quit.
Every year 125,000 people in Germany die as a result of their tobacco consumption. Around a quarter of all adults smoke, with consequential costs to the healthcare system of €25 billion annually. In Germany, the influence of the tobacco industry on tobacco-related legislation is a major barrier to effective tobacco control policies. Germany lags behind most other European countries on enacting comprehensive tobacco control measures despite there being public support for tobacco control measures such as smoking bans and tax increases on tobacco products among Germans.
But: “The economic, social, and health burden of smoking can be prevented,” says Dr. Kathleen Gali, a U.S.-born postdoctoral researcher previously at Stanford University. For three years, beginning in August 2021, Dr. Gali will be funded as a Postdoctoral Fellow by the University of Excellence Hamburg. During this period, she will survey 1,600 smokers to learn about their attitudes and experiences with smoking cessation and to learn what smoking cessation methods they might be interested in. She also wants to support the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf build its smoking cessation services to help patients quit.
“The persistent use of tobacco among cancer patients is cause for concern,” says Dr. Gali. In Germany, 89 percent of lung cancer cases among men and 83 percent of lung cancer cases among women are traceable to smoking. “Continuing to smoke even after a diagnosis can make treatment more difficult, delay wound healing, and increase the risk that the cancer returns. Despite this, up to 50 percent of cancer patients continue to smoke during their treatment.”
Currently, tobacco use by patients at the UKE is not systematically documented. By assessing and documenting tobacco use in medical charts, patients are more likely engage in cessation services, and therefore more likely to quit smoking. As part of her research, Dr. Gali wants to find out how tobacco treatment services can be integrated into the UKE’s operations. In her previous work at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, she discovered: “To ensure that programs like this work, you have to develop them together with stakeholders, including the people who are supposed to implement them.”
This is why Dr. Gali, who has a background in psychology and public health, is planning to conduct also interviews with adults who smoke, patients with cancer who smoke, and experts in addiction and tobacco use in Germany, including clinicians who care for patients with cancer. The fellowship’s materials budget of €20,000 will cover Dr. Gali’s project costs, including recruitment efforts and equipment.
At Universität Hamburg, Dr. Gali is conducting her research within the area of Health Economics, one of the University’s five emerging fields. Awarding postdoctoral fellowships fortifies these important areas, which should give rise to future clusters of excellence. Furthermore, the fellowships lend support to outstanding early career researchers from both Germany and abroad who wish to prepare for their next career steps, e.g., as the leader of an early career research group or as a junior professor. Funding comes from the Excellence Strategy of the Federal and State Governments.