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Issues to be considered Print E-mail

When decisions were being made about whether to deal with this particular health concern (tobacco use and young adults), and whether or not to apply a multiple intervention program approach to it, the Public Health Unit considered the following issues:

Ontario Public Health PractionersNeed: How big is the problem?

According to the 1996/97 National Health Survey, smoking rates were highest among young adults, 35.5 per cent of whom smoked compared to 28.9 per cent of the total population.

Because little was known about effective anti-tobacco interventions for young adults, planners looked at factors related to their developmental stage. People from 18 to 25 are in transition from adolescence to adulthood. They are likely to start smoking and resistant to attempts to get them to stop. Risk factors — such as the high stress of university and college and joining the work force, moving, changing peer groups and becoming more independent all contribute to the pressure to smoke. The smoking that begins as an adolescent experiment can become entrenched in young adulthood, leading to lifelong addiction.

Environmental factors were also considered. Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in university residences, social settings and typical workplaces was highlighted as a particularly significant contributing factor in the lives of young adults.

Potential impact: How much can we fix it?

The risks of smoking can be modified. Smoking rates have dropped enormously over recent decades, as public health interventions discouraged smoking uptake and encouraged quitting.

There is a proven track record of effective public health interventions to prevent drug and alcohol use by this age group.

Appropriateness: Are we the best people to do it?

Public health had a clear mandate to address the issue of smoking, including direction from the provincial government to reduce the proportion of daily adult smokers to 15 per cent by 2005. Health units are particularly well-positioned to address the multiple factors that contribute to smoking among this age group. Health education, support for healthy public policy and supportive environments are the framework for public health practice.

There was a well-resourced program to prevent tobacco use, prevention and cessation initiatives established at the health unit with strong support from all levels of management. Through the work of this program, the health unit knew one local university was planning to work toward smoke-free residences, because it had asked for help on that initiative.

The health unit had existing partnerships that would give it access to young adults and help establish its credibility.

Capacity: Are we able to do it?

At the time there was an interest in exploring how health programs could collaborate to deliver more comprehensive programming, so resources for the project were made available through cross program co-operation.
The local school of nursing and a university-based research unit helped provide direction and expertise to assist in assessing needs assessment and evaluating the early implementation.

The health unit staff participated in tobacco-use prevention networks across the province and country and internationally and used them to get information on promising intervention strategies and assessment processes.

Allies and partners: Who will help us?

There was a broad range of partners to provide assistance and support, particularly in the university community, where researchers, students, health professionals and residence managers could all contribute. So could community partners, such as the YM-YWCA, and other health professionals working in preventing tobacco use.

Last Updated on Monday, 01 June 2009 08:02