Why we need to work with children and young adolescents
On World 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 rolemodel to other children. Investing in adolescent health generates a ‘triple dividend’ as described in The Global Strategy for Women, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030.
What we 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 scaffolding onto which children can hang a specific curriculum (messages and activities). A set of messages for children and young people would include topics such as:
- The harms of smoking
- The health risks from smoking
- Anti-smoking laws
In addition we would include messages on:
- The benefits of not smoking
- Why people begin to smoke
- Why children like smoking
- The costs of smoking
- Passive smoking harms babies and others
- Smoking harming the environment
Co-creation in a Participatory Inquiry
Part of the process of creating, developing and testing messages and other content would be the involvement of groups of children and their educators in a participatory inquiry and then checking all 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/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.
Another key feature of the Children for Health process is to organise children’s activities into three ‘stages’:
This is best done alongside the children and adults once we have clarified how, where and when the content is to be used.
In addition to the topic-specific content there is the life skills 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 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.
Please click the link below to download a document with content and activities for a ‘No Tobacco’ programme aimed at:
- Children and young adolescents directly;
- Parents; and
- Teachers/youth workers to use as resources materials in a class/group setting.
In your Tobacco Programme, work to understand the specific needs and target groups. Then adapt and simplify content and messages. Each activity needs to be fun and ‘sticky’ and not just a series of do’s and don’ts. Make sure that children are involved in helping to co-create the content, or designing the activities and helping to lead the way!
Children for Health’s Guide to Help Children Understand Smoking and Prevent Them From Starting
Other useful links