An ounce of prevention

An ounce of prevention

Health professions students to educate middle school students about tobacco risks

By Allyson Fox

Elizabeth Warren, a pharmacy student, talks to her teammates, medical student Jason Ludlow and nursing student Larissa Moon, during the AHEC ATTAC-IT program in September./Photo by Maria Belen Farias

About 820 health professions students came together for the UF Area Health Education Centers 14th annual ATTAC-IT program Sept. 1 to learn about their roles in tobacco prevention and to receive training on how to effectively promote the anti-tobacco message.

Later in the year, the health professions students will attend middle schools and teach students about the harmful effects of tobacco.

Participants in this program were not limited to one sect of the health field. Students from the colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Health Professions and Health and Human Performance participated in the training program.

“Students from all health care professions deal with the effects of tobacco use,” said Venita Sposetti, D.M.D., associate dean for education in the College of Dentistry. “When you think of tobacco, no one health care profession owns it.”

The program was split into two parts: a lecture portion and a small-group discussion.

During the lecture portion, students listened to experts discuss why tobacco is addictive, how to talk to a smoker about quitting and recent trends in tobacco.

This year’s keynote speaker was Mark Gold, M.D., a UF distinguished alumni professor and chair of psychiatry in the College of Medicine.

Gold discussed some of the dangers of smoking and why tobacco is so addictive.

The shocking truth: Cigarettes kill more Americans than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, fires, illegal drugs and murders combined, he said.

“It’s like injecting a drug without a needle,” Gold said. “You know it’s bad for you, but still, you’re stuck with it.”

He left the students with this: “Prevention is the only treatment that is absolutely safe and effective without risk.”

During the second part of the program, students broke into small groups to discuss how they would execute an anti-smoking program for middle school students.

“It’s good background information about learning how to tell patients why to stop smoking,” said Sergio Jacas, a student in the College of Dentistry.

Although Jacas knew prior to the training that tobacco isn’t good for you, he said he learned new teaching methods that will help the message stick.

Buddy Valenti, a student in the College of Medicine, said he believes it is important to note different approaches to communicating tobacco information.

“Most of us know smoking is not good for you, but the biggest thing is communicating that well,” Valenti said.

The program gave students the opportunity to work with people who have different educational backgrounds.

Jennifer Pillsbury, a student in the College of Pharmacy, said, “It’s nice to interact with people whom I would potentially be working with later on.”

Pillsbury said she thinks teaching middle school students the things she learned will not only help them, but also will be an important learning and growing experience for her.

“The main thing is this program has been around for over a decade. We should be proud of it,” Sposetti said. “We have a group of people who are so different but continue to work together to pull off a successful program.”