The Oswego Community Health Assessment completed by the Oswego County Health Department found that nearly 32% of adults across the county smoke, 28% of pregnant women smoke and the cancer mortality rate is the highest in the state.
After reading these shocking statistics, New Vision Allied Health students from the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation decided to brainstorm preventative measures and research statistics pertaining to tobacco usage in schools.
With the collaboration of school administration and staff, the New Vision students were able to implement a survey to grades 9-12 regarding tobacco usage in eight component school districts.
Receiving over two thousand submissions, information was inputted into an excel spreadsheet for analyzing.
The data showed that many students are fairly educated on the negative health effects caused by tobacco products.
While traditional cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product, e-cigarettes seem to be an increasingly growing trend.
Lastly, the average age that students start using tobacco products is 14.
The New Vision students split up into groups and utilized these discoveries to devise ways to solve the problem.
Ideas were presented to a panel of health experts including Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang, Oswego Health RN CDE Susan Callaway and NOCHSI RN Julie Reid.
Using a rubric that addressed criteria such as feasibility, likelihood of success and comprehensive budget, the panelists chose one idea from both of the morning and afternoon classes to move forward with implementation.
One group is in the process of piloting their idea at the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central School District.
They plan to inform and educate on the negative effects of peer pressure surrounding tobacco use with a program called “Students Against Smoking.” Their presentation will target seventh and eighth grade emotions and use hands-on activities to show them how tobacco usage affects their lives and loved ones.
Some demonstrations will include performing tasks with a mock oxygen tank and attempting to breathe through a straw after physical activity to demonstrate reduced lung capacity. Collaboration with the APW drama club will produce empowering skits that show students how to turn down tobacco products.
The data collected by the New Vision students indicated stress to be one of the most influential factors of students deciding to use tobacco projects. The second group is currently working with the Hannibal Central School District to implement a stress relief program
Doing significant research on relieving stress, the students found that stress balls, scented hand sanitizer with stress-relieving oils, inspirational bracelets, sugarless gum and dark chocolate are all shown to relieve stress.
The students hope to make these items available in the school nurse’s office. Another part of the project involves a school presentation on how to manage the process of quitting tobacco usage, which can be difficult.
The students that devised both of these ideas were Nicole Fitzgerald (Phoenix), Trevor Allard (Mexico), Kristen D’Angelo (Hannibal), Olivia Cacchione (Hannibal), Kellie Gorman (Oswego), Tom Paronett (Mexico) Kaitlin Ballard (Oswego) and Leah Ruggaber (APW).
Both projects involve a financial cost factor, and each group was asked to create a budget necessary to put their plans into action. Impressed by their work, the Rural Health Network of Oswego County agreed to back their funding to get the programs off the ground.
“The community has been such a great supporter of the students throughout this year,” said New Vision Allied Health instructor Kimberly Wright. “Specifically, I would like to recognize the pivotal role the Oswego County Public Health Director [Jiancheng Huang] has played. He has supported them [the students] every step of the way, provided them with numerous resources and shared with them his expertise in epidemiology.”
Huang arranged for the students to present their projects to the Oswego County Legislature Health Committee where they had the opportunity to see a wing of government in action.
The committee was impressed with their work and offered some encouragement and insight to make the programs even better: social media integration, a greater focus on chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes and a survey follow-up after implementation of the programs.
“I want to congratulate these groups,” said Oswego County Legislature Health Committee Chairman Jack Proud. “I want to applaud the statistics and the poise with which they gave their presentations.”