Zeliadt Wins Best Paper of the Year Award from Veterans Affairs Unit

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Steven Zeliadt, research associate professor in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health, was recently selected as author of the “Best Research Paper of the Year” for his study of how lung cancer screening may negatively influence a person’s decision to stop smoking.

The award was presented by the Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D) unit of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that lung cancer screening gave smokers a false sense of security and bolstered beliefs that they could safely continue to smoke. Results were widely covered by national media, including The New York Times.

“This research highlights the challenges we face with individuals having exaggerated beliefs in healthcare technologies that may actually lead to detrimental behaviors,” Zeliadt said. “In this setting, we know that reducing smoking has significant health benefits, so ensuring we address any misperceptions smokers have that may impede cessation is clearly a necessary component of offering screening.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among veterans. Zeliadt and his co-authors found that 49 percent of respondents believed that having a negative scan lessened the need to quit smoking.

“The findings are of critical importance to veterans and the VA healthcare system as it begins to offer lung cancer screening,” an award announcement read. “This work led to the development of a proactive intervention, which was found during an HSR&D pilot study, to improve quit rates among screening participants to 19 percent compared to 7 percent in a control group.”

Zeliadt is partnering with the VA Smoking Quitline to test the implementation of the intervention in a large trial, recently funded by HSR&D. Zeliadt is part of HSR&D's Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care in Seattle.

The study, called “Attitudes and Perceptions about Smoking Cessation in the Context of Lung Cancer Screening,” was conducted as a special-interest project through the UW Health Promotion Research Center. The center, located in the School’s Department of Health Services, is one of 26 Prevention Research Centers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.