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Cancer Prevention and Youth
For the first time in recorded history, children are less healthy than their parents were at the same age. According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, youth tobacco rates are at an all time high among high school students (28.5%), only 21.4% of youth report eating five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, and only 32.2% of these youth report participation in daily physical exercise.
It is now a widely accepted notion that much of the risks of cancer can be reduced through healthy behaviors and that cancer is mostly a preventable disease. In fact, research shows that nearly two-thirds of all cancers may be prevented by reducing tobacco use, increasing physical activity and changing nutrition behaviors. It is the belief of many experts that these health behaviors are ultimately learned as children and youth.
The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. To achieve the goal of reducing cancer incidence and mortality, we must commit ourselves to a strategic and integrated approach to cancer prevention and influence the healthy choices that youth make while they are open to learning and change.
Youth Programs at the American Cancer Society
The Northwest Division of the American Cancer Society, serving Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Alaska, began to formalize its cancer prevention youth activities in 1998 through a program titled Speak Out! These programs and activities began with a primary focus on preventing and reducing tobacco use among youth and served overall approximately 450 youth and 110 adult mentors annually, the majority (85%) from Washington State. Speak Out! activities continue today and include Speak Out! Summer Summit, a week-long youth leadership and advocacy training program for high school aged youth. Youth are trained in team-building, leadership skills, planning skills and advocacy techniques to learn how to mobilize peers and communities to prevent tobacco use.
In addition to Summer Summit, youth programs originally designed included 6 workshops spread out over four days. These annual workshops continue today and provide education, information and the tools to assist youth and adult leaders in their efforts to build effective youth coalitions and community partnerships to support tobacco prevention and advocacy efforts. This year (2003) we plan to add advanced-track programs and offer a total of 12 workshops.
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In 2001, we partnered with the American Lung Association of Washington, University of Washington, and the Washington State Department of Health, in a two-year grant from Washington’s American Legacy Foundation to enhance the Speak Out! programs in Washington State, evaluate its effectiveness, and to identify opportunities to expand.
Introducing the Youth Initiative
The evaluation, conducted by the University of Washington, identified specific areas of opportunity and made recommendations that would expand the number of youth involved, broaden cancer prevention activities, and enhance overall program effectiveness in support of the mission of the American Cancer Society. The Youth Initiative, developed by the Northwest Division of the American Cancer Society, was created out of this evaluation. The overall annual budget for the Youth Initiative is $548,300, with $199,600 representing the new components for which we seek funding from the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation.
The Youth Initiative: (1) enhances program effectiveness by implementing new components based on formal evaluation, (2) broadens the focus of cancer prevention messages to include physical activity and nutrition, in addition to tobacco, and (3) extends the current programs to youth not currently served. We estimate by launching the Youth Initiative and expanding its programs, the Northwest Division will have 1500 youth participants and 410 adult mentors involved in Youth Initiative programs and activities in 2003. This represents an overall 300 percent increase over the number of youth and adults involved in 2001. Attachment A, titled Youth Initiative Programs and Activities, gives the full breadth of activities under the Youth Initiative and provides an overview of the specific components that make up the Youth Initiative programs.
As a strategic and comprehensive approach to cancer prevention, the objectives of the Youth Initiative and its programs are to 1) through advocacy, reduce tobacco use and increase the number of youth who follow American Cancer Society nutrition guidelines and physical activity recommendations, 2) change youth attitudes, health behavior and norms by involving youth in various forms of advocacy, 3) increase/enhance individual assets in youth (such as support, empowerment, and social competencies), and 4) engage and train adult mentors to work with youth.
One component of the Youth Initiative focuses specifically on school health as it pertains to nutrition and exercise. Recent reports of childhood obesity rates, decreased physical activity in youth, and poor nutrition habits show us that strategic action must be taken to engage youth as leaders to improve these health behaviors as well as reduce the use of tobacco. American Cancer Society will train youth as advocates and peer educators to educate others about cancer issues and to influence school policy discussions that effect school health programs and services. The focus on school health plays a key role to help us reach our goal to increase by 50% the number of school districts that provide a coordinated school health program by 2010. By helping youth develop leadership and advocacy skills around cancer prevention and health promotion, as well as test those skills in real world situations with the support of adults and community organizations, we believe that youth will make more positive and healthy individual choices long into their adult lives. Furthermore, youth can influence the health behaviors of their peers, their families and their communities. This is how we will prevent cancer in their generation – by supporting them in their efforts to fight on behalf of themselves and others for a cancer-free society.
Based on the recommendations from the evaluation conducted by the University of Washington, the following activities will be implemented this year as part of the Youth Initiative:
1. Create a Youth Initiative Website to serve as a virtual community for youth dialogue, online
training, educational resources, advocacy efforts, and recognition of youth leadership. A youth
appropriate website will allow us to reach populations of youth that we have not traditionally
engaged, including youth with high incidence of tobacco use and poor health and nutrition
practices. The majority of our youth participants are currently from rural communities. Urban
communities often require greater resources to penetrating these markets, which are traditionally
more economically and ethnically diverse. The goal of the new program elements is to expand
our reach into the urban communities, as well as grow the outreach in rural communities.
Technology is a vehicle that will help to overcome geographic and cultural boundaries. The
website will partner with the existing Youth Action Network (YAN), an email-based youth
network with currently about 500 youth and adults members, to increase to well over 1,000
members by using the website as an education resource and communication tool. Specifically,
the website will provide information about the mission and goals of the American Cancer
Society, materials detailing Youth Initiative programs and opportunities for youth involvement,
educational tools for creating youth coalitions and building leadership skills, and materials on
school health issues pertaining to nutrition, exercise and tobacco, cancer facts, and links to other
local and national tobacco prevention and school health websites. The website responds to the
communication preferences of youth today and will significantly increase our ability to involve
and educate youth and their peers about cancer. The overall cost of the website is $47,500.
2. Develop new marketing and collateral materials including an orientation and welcome package for youth volunteers. A membership packet will provide youth with information about the American Cancer Society, how they can play a unique role in shaping our future by getting involved, the resources available to them as youth volunteers, and the supporting materials for cancer prevention messages around tobacco use, exercise and nutrition. The budget for producing the marketing and collateral materials is $18,000.
3. Develop opportunities for involvement that target 18-24 year old young adults. Program
evaluation showed that we were losing skilled and committed youth volunteers as they graduated
from high school because no formal programs existed to continue their involvement. We propose
developing a tracking database and protocol for engaging youth in their young adult and college
years, with a particular focus on expanding our work with college campuses. This component of
the Youth Initiative will be developed over the next 6 months and implemented in 2004 at a cost
4. Provide recognition and rewards for youth participants throughout the Northwest Division,
including a Youth Advocate of the Year Award for each of the four states represented in the
Northwest Division. Four youth will be selected from a competitive nomination process and, if
funding permits, we anticipate awarding one youth from each state with $250-500 to honor top
youth leaders from Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Oregon whom have made significant
contributions to the tobacco control movement. These annual recognition awards for youth
participants represents $15,500 of the Youth Initiative budget.
The launch of the previously discussed programs will create a seamless flow of youth involvement within our organization. Youth involvement and programming must be viewed along a continuum ranging from young children participating in our children’s cancer camps to those youth who work within their college campus community to enact tobacco free and other health promoting policies.
If funding permits, we have identified additional opportunities to expand the individuals and communities served by the Youth Initiative and to assist the youth volunteers in their work to support the mission of the American Cancer Society:
1. Several Native American Tribes in the Northwest have expressed interest in partnering with the
American Cancer Society to address tobacco use among Native American youth. A specially
designed Speak Out! training would incorporate the unique cultural issue and ceremonial use of
tobacco as compared to commercial use. To implement this program would cost $27,400.
2. To enhance our internal capacity for youth-adult partnerships among American Cancer Society
staff, we propose broadening volunteer opportunities within all parts of our organization
(program, cancer prevention, patient service, and community fundraising events). Historically,
advancing the role of youth within our organization has been the responsibility of cancer
prevention staff only. Research indicates, however, that youth involvement in multiple parts of
our organization will further impact the growth of leadership skills and positively effect youth
decisions about their health. To accomplish this goal, at a cost of $23,000, we will need to,
a) Expand staff training, beyond just cancer prevention staff, to assist all staff in offering and
supporting meaningful opportunities for youth involvement.
b) Integrate internal databases that track and record youth involvement. This would allow us,
for example, to invite youth involved in our children’s cancer camps to participate as
advocates on policy issues, and youth who participate in community development events to
be invited to volunteer as leaders in cancer prevention strategies.
The Youth Initiative is led by dedicated staff, all of whom hold Bachelors and/or Masters degrees, and jointly offer more than 32 years of experience in youth programming and cancer prevention. Their experienced leadership will guide the ongoing evaluation of the Youth Initiative to ensure its programs continue to evolve in support of the goals of the American Cancer Society. Program effectiveness and the growth of individual participants will be assessed by evaluating how they have used their education and training to make healthier individual choices and deliver cancer prevention messages to their peers and the community. We also will perform a basic process evaluation to assess program and individual development.
The Mission and Goals of the American Cancer Society
It is important to place the overall focus of the Youth Initiative and its specific programs within the context of the larger mission of the American Cancer Society. This mission, simply stated, is to decrease the incidence and impact of cancer on the American public. The American Cancer Society exists to save lives and to diminish suffering through community based programs aimed at reducing the risk of cancer, detecting cancer as early as possible, ensuring proper treatment, and empowering people facing cancer to cope with the disease and maintain the highest quality of life possible.
The American Cancer Society has set three significant goals for its work in the next decade and to be reached by 2015:
• To reduce cancer mortality by 50%
• To reduce cancer incidence by 25%
• To enhance the quality of life of cancer patients and their families
The Northwest Division of the American Cancer Society is committed to saving lives by reaching these goals through research, education, advocacy, and service. Our goal of a 25% reduction in the incidence of cancer must be a significant priority for both human and financial resources. The Youth Initiative serves as a principal component for our cancer prevention messages, activities and advocacy efforts that will directly impact our ability to meet these important goals and save lives.
Funding the Youth Initiative
The Northwest Division of the American Cancer Society respectfully requests a grant of $40,000 to support the Youth Initiative, a comprehensive cancer prevention initiative. A $40,000 grant from the Paul G. Allen Foundation would fund specifically the implementation of the expanded and new youth programs and activities at the American Cancer Society, Northwest Division.
The Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation would join other foundations and individual donors in support of this youth-centered, cancer prevention initiative. We have already received funding from numerous foundations (see attached project budget) and have proposals pending with other sources. A grant from the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation would support the immediate implementation of Youth Initiative programs and enable the Northwest Division to leverage additional funding opportunities. Partial funding of this program would force us to do less and reach fewer youth. In addition, we would not be able to consider opportunities such as responding to the needs of the local Native American Tribes and building needed internal capacity. We appreciate the previous involvement of the Foundation in their support of a feasibility study for a temporary housing facility for cancer patients. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Foundation to support cancer research, cancer prevention and education, advocacy and patient services in the Northwest.