OSWEGO, NY – Oswego Hospital’s New Vision students have spent much of the year studying the tobacco habits of their peers and after collaborating with local agencies have developed strategies that they hope will lead to a lower rate of smoking in Oswego County.
The students are high school seniors enrolled in the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation’s Allied Health New Vision Program.
Throughout the school year they have been taking part in rotations at various Oswego Hospital departments two days a week, which expose them to healthcare careers. Each year the class takes on a major project and this year the students reviewed the Oswego County Community Health Assessment, which includes facts on the health status of residents, including smoking.
According to the document, 32 percent of county residents smoke, compared to 18 percent statewide.
The morning and afternoon New Vision participants worked together to create a ten-question survey that they distributed to students in eight county school districts.
After reviewing the nearly 2,000 completed surveys, the students were surprised to learn that many students begin using tobacco products at age 14.
“I didn’t know that people started smoking at such a young age,” said Karli Bricker, a student from Fulton.
The surveys further indicated that most students started smoking out of curiosity and due to stress.
Using their data, each class divided into groups to develop ideas on how best to reduce the use of tobacco products among their peers.
Those projects were then presented to a project selection panel that included Oswego Health’s Community Education Nurse Susan Callaway, Oswego County’s Director of Public Health Jiancheng Huang and Julie Reid, a registered nurse at Northern Oswego County Health Services Inc.
The panel selected the morning’s class project that will introduce the use of stress relievers in the Hannibal Middle School and High School.
Through a grant from the Rural Health Network of Oswego County, the students were able to purchase stress balls and bracelets that carry the slogan, take down tobacco.
Olivia Cacchione, a Hannibal student has been working with the Hannibal School Principal Stephen Dunn to coordinate a school assembly and distribution of the stress balls and bracelets.
“He has been really helpful throughout the project, as he feels it is very important,” Cacchione said.
Working alongside Cacchione has been Rachel Herrmann, who developed the budget for the project.
Meanwhile, for the afternoon class, the panel chose a project that will offer an afternoon of presentations at the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Middle School.
As part of the presentations, students will be asked to breathe through straws to simulate a reduced lung capacity as a result of smoking, while a second station will represent the weight and size of an average oxygen tank used by those who have emphysema.
Not only have the students worked with school district officials, they have also shared their projects with members of the Oswego County Legislature’s health committee, who the students said were impressed with their initiatives.
“It was exciting to know that they believed in our projects,” said Nichole Fitzgerald, of Phoenix.
Overseeing the projects has been New Vision Instructor Kim Wright.
“I am so proud of these students,” she said. “They have worked on these projects the entire year and have gone above and beyond. It’s also nice to know that these future healthcare workers are getting involved in an important community issue.”
Members of the public can learn more about the student projects on June 2 and 4 from 9 to 11 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. both days in three locations: the Oswego Hospital lobby, the south entrance to the Health Service Center and the lobby of the Fulton Medical Center.
Hannibal New Vision students Rachel Herrmann and Olivia Cacchione show off a stress ball and bracelet that they will hand out to Hannibal students as a way to reduce student smoking.