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Tob Control. 2007 Dec;16 Suppl 1:i16-20.

Minimal dataset for quitlines: a best practice.

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  • 1Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.



This paper discusses the development of a minimal dataset (MDS) for tobacco cessation quitlines across North America. The goal was to create a standardised instrument and protocol that would allow for comparisons and pooling of data across quitlines for evaluation and research purposes. Principles of utilisation focused evaluation were followed to achieve consensus across diverse stakeholder groups in two countries.


The North American Quitline Consortium (NAQC) assembled a working group with representatives from quitline service providers, funders, evaluators and researchers from Canada and the United States. An extensive, iterative consultation process over two years led to consensus on the evaluation domains, indicators and specific items. Descriptive information on quitline service models, data collection protocols and methodological issues were addressed.


The resulting minimal dataset (MDS) includes 15 items collected from eligible callers at intake and eight items collected from smokers participating in evaluation. Recommendations for selecting evaluation participants, length of follow-up and repeat callers were developed. Full MDS questions and technical documents are available on the NAQC website.


Adoption and implementation of the MDS occurred in the majority of North American quitlines by the end of 2006. Key success factors included a focus on utility and feasibility, a commitment to meeting multiple and varied needs, sensitivity to situational factors and investment in working interactively with stakeholders. The creation and implementation of a MDS across two countries is an important "first" in tobacco control which will help speed the creation of practice based evidence and facilitate practice based research.

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