The Manitoba government is launching what is believed to be the world’s first social impact bond dedicated to helping people quit smoking.
“We know that approximately 160,000 Manitobans currently smoke, causing adverse health effects for themselves and those around them,” said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen. “This new social impact bond will help more Manitobans quit smoking and live healthier lives, creating savings for the health system that can be re-invested towards further improvements to care.”
A social impact bond is an innovative social policy tool that brings together government, the private sector, not-for-profits and other stakeholders to deliver effective and prevention-focused solutions. Private investment is used to fund the programs initially, and then is repaid if social outcomes and cost savings are realized. These types of programs allow the government to explore more innovative solutions without financial risk, with the ultimate goal of delivering better outcomes for Manitobans.
In this case, the Manitoba government will partner with Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmacists Manitoba on a smoking cessation social impact bond, beginning in April. Under this model, Shoppers Drug Mart will invest $2 million over the next five years to fund activities around smoking cessation including counselling and nicotine replacement therapies. Research shows these forms of treatment can increase the chances of long-term smoking cessation by up to 40 per cent, which in turn reduces hospital, medication and physician costs.
The goal of the bond is to enrol up to 4,500 smokers over a three-year period based on their readiness to quit and to ensure a minimum of 12 per cent quit smoking with the support of one of more than 500 Manitoba pharmacists trained in smoking cessation. Increasing the number of Manitobans who successfully quit smoking could save the province more than $1 million annually in lower health-care costs, Friesen said.
Success metrics will focus on the number of people who participate in an initial assessment with a trained pharmacist, the number of people who have quit smoking for at least 12 months and the number of people who continue to abstain from nicotine after 24 months. If outcomes are met or exceeded, the company will receive up to $2.12 million.
“The health risks associated with smoking are among the costliest and the most preventable. Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacists are trained to support patients through their journey, providing counsel and different approaches based on individual needs,” said Jeff Leger, president, Shoppers Drug Mart. “We are confident in this new collaborative program and our ability to work with patients, the Manitoba government and Pharmacists Manitoba to help make our province healthier.”
Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible for assistance and can approach participating pharmacies for an initial assessment. The program will initially focus on health regions where smoking rates are highest – Northern (33 per cent), Interlake-Eastern (23 per cent) and Prairie Mountain (22 per cent).
The provincewide smoking rate is 14.5 per cent, slightly below the Canadian average of 15.1 per cent.
“Pharmacists work tirelessly every single day to make a difference in patients’ lives and this is another opportunity to demonstrate the positive contribution our members make to improved health care for Manitoba families,” said Pawandeep Sidhu, board president, Pharmacists Manitoba. “A social impact bond dedicated to helping people quit smoking will positively impact countless Manitobans and we look forward to partnering with the government to implement the new program.”
A 2015 report commissioned by Manitoba Health determined direct smoking-related illnesses cost the province’s health-care system approximately $244 million per year.
This marks Manitoba’s second social impact bond. Last year, the Manitoba government partnered with Southern First Nations Network of Care and Wiijii’idiwag Ikwewag, an Indigenous doula service provider, on a two-year pilot project designed to connect at-risk Indigenous mothers with doulas.