According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth engagement is an opportunity for youth to gain the ability and authority to make decisions that help improve the policy environment and change social norms.
The Power of Youth
When youth are engaged as public health collaborators, they can contribute valuable perspectives and make meaningful contributions:
- Important allies and effective partners for delivery of best and promising practices
- Credibility with peers and community members
- Bring energy to activities and events
- Naturally challenge the traditional attitudes that may restrict and limit how adults think
- Provide important insight about their generation
- Ability to mobilize their peers for activities and facilitate access to many arenas.
Youth Engagement Focus Areas
Below are a few ways Oklahoma communities are engaging youth:
- Physical Activity & Nutrition (PAN) – Efforts related to the creation of opportunities for healthy eating and active living for people of all ages and abilities.
- Tobacco – Efforts related to ensuring tobacco-free properties, promoting the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline for those who want to quit tobacco, and supporting tobacco-free lifestyles
- VOICE – Efforts related to cultivating youth self-efficacy, increasing cultural awareness and sensitivity, and influencing preexisting ideas about youth and their ability to effectively contribute to statewide wellness strategic planning.
- Direct Action & Community Outreach (with training support from the Taking Down Tobacco initiative from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids/CVS Health)
- Informing Decision-Makers – Understanding the importance of using the youth voice and opinions and ensuring they are heard by decision-makers in the community. More importantly, learning where and how youth stories can be impactful and how to better equip youth to share their story and cause strategically.
- Mastering the Media – Utilizing media advocacy to gain access and voice to the local decision-making process, the types of media tactics available to get messaging heard and when to use them, and working with local media to raise the cause profile
- Messaging Matters – Developing and communicating relatable, clear, and concise messages that resonate with target audiences and activate action in the community.
- Outreach & Activity Planning – Planning and implementing awareness day (ex. Kick Butts Day or National Walk to School Day) events and supporting current community initiatives.
- Best Practices User Guide; Youth Engagement–State And Community Interventions – CDC – This guide focuses on the role youth play in advancing policy and social norm changes as part of a comprehensive tobacco control program.
- Youth Engagement Alliance for Tobacco Control – Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids – Networking, resources and technical assistance for a nationwide network of adult coordinators in the field – highlights best practices and encourages the sharing of ideas.
- Taking Down Tobacco – Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids / CVS Health Foundation – A comprehensive youth advocacy training program geared toward middle- and high-school students and presented through free online and in-person trainings.
- Youth E-cigarette & JUUL Prevention Program – Catch My Breath – A program designed for delivery by teachers, nurses, or school counselors to help students build knowledge and skills to resist media influences and peer pressure to try E-cigarettes.
- Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults – CDC – An overview of what e-cigarettes are, their risks for youth, & resources for prevention, cessation, and learning more.
- Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan – FDA – A series of actions to stop youth use of tobacco products focusing on preventing access, curbing marketing, and educating teens about tobacco’s dangers.
- Know the Risks: E-cigarettes & Young People – U.S. Surgeon General – A video message, audio PSA, and advisory from the Surgeon General plus tips on how to talk with your kids and information on e-cigarette risks and prevention.
- The Tobacco Prevention Toolkit – Stanford Medicine – Theory-based and evidence-informed resources created by educators, parents, and researchers aimed at preventing middle and high school students’ use of tobacco and nicotine.
In what other ways have youth contributed to your health initiatives? What strategies have worked well for getting them involved and keeping them engaged? Visit the Forum to share your own tips and successes.
For specific guidance on youth engagement, contact Chantel Hartman, Tobacco Use Prevention Program Coordinator, Oklahoma State Dept. of Health (OSDH). TSET grantees, please submit a request in the technical assistance system.