NO Tobacco! Why we need to work with children and young adolescents
On World NO Tobacco Day, let’s think again on how to work with older children and young adolescents (10-14 years). This is an age and stage where there is a very real possibility they can take up the smoking habit. But they are also at an age where they can influence others with health information and be both a carer to and a role model to other children. Investing in adolescent health generates a ‘triple dividend’ as described in The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030.
What we would do
We believe in simple health messages for children to learn and share. This is not all that we would do but it’s a start. Messages provide a kind of framework onto which to hang a specific curriculum.
If we were to develop a set of messages for children and young people we would of course include messages on topics that often feature in NO SMOKING campaigns such as:
- The harms of smoking
- The health risks from smoking, and
- Anti-smoking laws
But in addition we would include messages on:
- The benefits of not smoking
- Why people begin to smoke
- Why children are drawn to start smoking
- The costs of smoking
- That passive smoking harms babies and others
- Smoking harming the environment
A Participatory Process
Part of our process of creating, developing and testing health messages and other content is the involvement of groups of children and their educators and checking the content with medical experts. At Children for Health we have decades of experience working with different groups of adults and children on all sorts of health topics but it is always important to observe how the content is landing and what it takes for children and adolescents and their educators to help make changes as a result of what they have seen on a screen or heard in a class or group. In partnership, we need to understand the specific needs and target groups. We then work to adapt and simplify content and messages. Each activity needs to be fun and ‘sticky’ and not just a series of dos and don’ts.
Another key feature of the Children for Health process is to organise activities into three ‘stages’ – Understanding, Action and Reflection. This is best done alongside the children and adults once we have clarified how, where and when the content is to be used. We call this our tricycle approach.
In addition to the topic-specific content we provide lifeskills related content and content for teachers on the differences between what we would regard as a ‘standard’ health education approach and an approach that promotes participation and empowerment. Our 7-part approach to promote participation has been tested numerous times with practitioners in the field and the approach used with topics as diverse as ‘nutrition’ and ‘diarrhoea prevention and control’. The Rainbow Flower is one of the training tools we have developed. The approach offers a way to promote participation from the bottom up.
Click here for ideas that you can use to create materials for working with children on a No Tobacco campaign. Join us in making this a World No Tobacco Day that helps us think about what children themselves can do to prevent ill-health from tobacco.