The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi conducted extensive research to identify ways to educate youth about the importance of choosing tobacco-free lifestyles. Traditionally, high school youth have advocated for tobacco prevention and control. The research indicated that youth in grades 4 - 7 could be integral in advocating for change with regards to local and state tobacco issues. Using these findings, the Partnership developed Students Working Against Tobacco (S.W.A.T.), a comprehensive education and advocacy program specifically designed for 4th-7th grade youth. The S.W.A.T. program utilizes schools, youth groups, churches, and law enforcement agencies to identify youth advocates in every community. Using in-class learning activities, school speakers, and advocacy teams, the S.W.A.T. program educates youth on the dangers of tobacco use while encouraging decision-making and leadership skills. Youth who participate in the advocacy program attend a S.W.A.T. "boot camp", where they learn key life resiliency skills. After camp completion, youth become members of a S.W.A.T. Team. S.W.A.T. Teams organize and implement anti-tobacco activities and community service projects on a grassroots level. These projects range from having teams conduct local awareness programs to participating in lobbying for changes in state and local tobacco laws. Through these activities, youths take ownership of tobacco prevention and control issues in their communities. Team members accumulate points and receive S.W.A.T. incentives for their advocacy participation. The S.W.A.T. program has reached over 30,000 Mississippi youth and is responsible for assisting in the passage of over 80 local ordinances.
Learning Objectives: 1. Recognize the importance and need of incorporating age-appropriate anti-tobacco advocacy programs for elementary school age youth. 2. Identify ways to develop easy to understand culturally diverse advocacy programs for elementary youth. 3. Identify methods for ensuring ongoing participation from youth and youth leaders
Keywords: Advocacy, Youth
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA