Teens Against Tobacco Use - Peer-teaching model spreads the message

September 14, 2016

Call it the power of partnerships. El Paso Independent School District (EPISD), the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health - El Paso Regional Campus (UT Health), and Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PdNHF) are working together to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco.

Teens Against Tobacco Use is a collaboration that started in 2014-15 when Dr. Louis Brown, assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science at UT Health, implemented the delivery of 160 anti-tobacco presentations by 60 students, reaching more than 2,500 students within EPISD.

The newest collaboration slated for the 2016-17 school year will implement three youth coalitions as an after-school activity, train youth in a peer-teaching model to deliver Teens Against Tobacco Use lessons to younger peers, and advocate for tobacco control policies.

The formation of youth coalitions around tobacco prevention is regarded as an innovative health promotion strategy that empowers youth to serve as both educators and health policy advocates. The peer-teaching model will unfold at Austin High School, Guillen Middle School, and Wiggs Middle School, where students will be recruited and trained to develop and deliver anti-tobacco presentations to younger students.

“There has been a growing interest in the use of peers as educators,” said Dr. Brown. “It’s still not the dominant form of education in the United States, but I think it’s particularly effective where we’re using near-peers: high school students presenting to middle school students, middle school students presenting to elementary school students.”

Youth coalition members also will complete tobacco retailer compliance checks, create and disseminate anti-tobacco videos via social media channels, and participate in letter-writing campaigns for tobacco control policies as part of their after-school activities.

EPISD Health and Wellness Director John Adams said the district plans to have the first training at the three campuses in mid-September. Partnering again with UT Health and PdNHF on smoke-free policies makes this work all the more impactful.

“It’s critical because when we work in silos, less gets done,” Adams said. “Delivering the same message makes it more powerful. Health education in schools is far from what public health is in the public sector. That’s why it’s important to have access to other organizations.”

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