Challenge Cancer 2020: Full Circle with Sarah Mayberry
Challenge Cancer 2020 is our visionary initiative to cut cancer rates in Maine by 2020. Our goal for a Maine less burdened by cancer requires active participation from people and communities across the state. Our success depends on inviting key stakeholders to the table to share strategy, tactics, and experience.
We recently sat down with one of our stakeholders: Sarah Mayberry, Program Manager of MaineHealth’s Center for Tobacco Independence. Before moving to Maine Health, Sarah was the head of the Breathe Easy Coalition (BEC), which received several Maine Cancer Foundation tobacco prevention grants. She currently serves on MCF’s Board of Directors, to help us understand the importance of tobacco use prevention in Maine.
When Sarah was young, she dreamed of going into the medical profession. She grew up in Norway, Maine, and eventually attended the University of Southern Maine where her early dreams directed her studies in human biology and biochemistry. While she had no formal plans to enter the public health arena, her first jobs out of college set the wheels in motion.
After graduating from school, Sarah started on local level tobacco work in two of Maine’s counties: Oxford and Androscoggin. In order to push tobacco policy changes, Healthy Oxford Hills and Healthy Androscoggin utilized Sarah to bridge the gap between the state of Maine and the intimate communities she served. “After those two professional experiences, I decided to stay with my newfound career path instead of going the clinical route,” said Sarah. “I fell in love with tobacco policy work.
The two varied populations – from the urban areas in Oxford County, to the more rural communities in Androscoggin County – afforded Sarah time to understand the complications of tobacco use; conflicting health mindsets of people living in different areas, and the inequities of available resources from county to county, painted a complex picture of the tobacco landscape in Maine. “Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death,” said Sarah, “and in these first two jobs out of college, I started to really see the wide-reaching burden of tobacco use and second-hand smoke in Maine communities.”
In 2010, Sarah joined the Breathe Easy Coalition (BEC), which widened her scope from community level to statewide work. The founding mission of the organization was to create tobacco use policies in housing units, which eventually expanded to include hospitals, colleges, and behavioral health facilities. “40% of all cigarettes are smoked by someone with a mental illness and people with mental illness or substance use disorders die 25% earlier than the rest of the population because of chronic illness,” said Sarah.
Recently, Sarah joined MaineHealth as Program Manager within the Center for Tobacco Independence Tobacco Prevention Services initiative. She is one of six Tobacco Prevention Services staff members, which supports 14 community coalitions across Maine to implement tobacco control strategies. “The communities we work with have their own cultural norms and standards,” she shared. And while the environments differ, their pillars are the same: “We focus our efforts on prevention of youth initiation of tobacco, reducing exposure of secondhand smoke, and promotion of tobacco treatment through the Maine Tobacco Helpline.
In December 2016, Maine Cancer Foundation awarded $50,000 to the Center for Tobacco Independence. The funds will support the Maine Tobacco Helpline to increase referrals for Mainers struggling with tobacco use. The Helpline is staffed by tobacco treatment specialists who use evidence-based support to help people quit. “It’s never too late,” said Sarah. “All studies and science has shown this. Even if you’ve never been successful before, you can always build on short-term successes.”
The most recent studies show that one in five Maine adults are current cigarette smokers, and one in four currently use any tobacco products. Cigarette smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to receive a lung cancer diagnosis or die from lung cancer than nonsmokers. As part of MCF’s Challenge Cancer2020 initiative, our goal is to prevent thousands of needless cancers through prevention, screening and access to care. Since 2015, Maine Cancer Foundation has given $1,376,380 to statewide tobacco cessation and prevention services. Together we can change the story of cancer in Maine.