A study underway at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is hoping to identify incentives that result in limited secondhand smoke in homes with infants.

The $2.2 million, five-year study will provide a more in-depth hospital-initiated behavioral therapy program conducted in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The results will be compared to the conventional care practices currently used in the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

“People have a lot of misinformation,” said Angela Stotts, PhD, associate professor and director of research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UTHealth Medical School. “They know that smoking is bad but not why. Secondhand smoke exposure leads to longer hospital stays, asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome.”

Participants are a total of 396 low-income families who report a household smoker and have an infant at high respiratory risk in the NICU. Both groups will receive the standard educational information about the dangers of secondhand smoke. Those randomly assigned to the more intensive program also have four one-hour counseling sessions — two at the hospital and two at their home after discharge – and incentives for attendance and establishing a home smoking ban.

“This will be the first study of an innovative combination of motivational strategies to discourage household secondhand smoke within the context of a NICU to improve the health of vulnerable infants and their families, potentially saving health care dollars,” said Stotts.