Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Response to Incentives for Quitline Engagement

Maya Vijayaraghavan, Melanie S. Dove, Susan L. Stewart, Sharon E. Cummins, Dean Schillinger, Neal D. Kohatsu, Elisa K. Tong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: Certain racial and ethnic minorities have lower utilization of tobacco cessation services, such as Helpline counseling and cessation medications. The goal of the California Medicaid (Medi-Cal) Incentives to Quit Smoking Program was to facilitate successful cessation by promoting modest financial and cessation medication–related incentives to increase engagement with the California Smokers’ Helpline counseling services. Differences in the response to incentives and outreach on engagement with Helpline services among racial/ethnic groups within the Medi-Cal population were examined. Study design: Analysis of Helpline caller data. Setting/participants: African American (n=18,656); English-speaking Latinx (n=12,792); Spanish-speaking Latinx (n=3,254); and white (n=45,907) Medi-Cal callers. Intervention: The Medi-Cal Incentives to Quit Smoking team conducted statewide and community-based outreach and facilitated direct-to-member all-household mailings about the Medi-Cal Incentives to Quit Smoking program to engage with Medi-Cal callers and promote Helpline services between March 2012 and July 2015 (analyzed 2017/2018). Medi-Cal callers could ask for a $20 gift card incentive after having completed a counseling session; in September 2013, callers were offered free nicotine replacement therapy. Main outcome measures: Three behavioral outcomes are reported that reflect activated callers and callers who engaged in treatment that is proven to improve chances of quitting smoking: receipt of the $20 incentive, receipt of nicotine replacement therapy, and receipt of counseling. Results: African Americans and English-speaking Latinx had higher engagement with the financial incentive than whites (African American APR=1.66, 95% CI=1.59, 1.73, English-speaking Latinx APR=1.29, 95% CI=1.22, 1.36). Spanish-speaking Latinx had lower initial engagement with the financial incentive (APR=0.75, 95% CI=0.66, 0.85), but higher engagement with Medi-Cal's all-household mailing (Spanish-speaking Latinx 30.6% vs whites 18.2%, p<0.001). Although African Americans and English-speaking Latinx had similar rates of completing counseling and receiving nicotine replacement therapy as whites, Spanish-speaking Latinx had higher rates than whites. Conclusions: The promotion of modest financial and cessation medication incentives through multiple outreach channels increased callers’ engagement with the Helpline and appeared to promote ethnic and linguistic equity with respect to the receipt of counseling and nicotine replacement therapy. Targeted community-based outreach may resonate particularly for African Americans, and language-concordant Medi-Cal insurance plan mailings may have reached newly covered Spanish-speaking Latinx. Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled Advancing Smoking Cessation in California's Medicaid Population, which is sponsored by the California Department of Public Health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S186-S195
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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