East African Smoke Free Program
WellShare International’s East African Smoke-Free Program, funded by the Tobacco-Free Communities (TFC) Grant at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), aims to reduce the harm caused by tobacco and secondhand smoke on the Somali and East African populations of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The program’s objectives are to: 1). Complete a community-based assessment to strengthen Minnesota’s Somali and East African community capacity and involvement around tobacco control through community engagement and a community advisory committee; 2). Provide innovative community awareness and health education activities at community events with a focus on the importance of decreasing tobacco use, prevalence, harm, and secondhand smoke exposure; 3). Increase the number of Somali and East African community members in Minneapolis-St. Paul that are protected by commercial tobacco- and smoke-free indoor and outdoor policies; and 4). Increase culturally appropriate referrals for Somali and East African community members to cessation services and develop plans for integrating cultural support into existing community services, programs, and networks.
The East African Smoke-Free Program has been in operation since February 01, 2013. Due to its successful progress toward project objectives, it was approved for a 9-month extension and additional funding until October 31, 2016. After a new round of competitive grant applications, the project was again approved for a five-year cycle, ending October 31, 2021. The program has directly reached more than 13,000 Somali- and East African-community residents and indirectly reached more than 80,000 through innovative community outreach activities since 2013. The Program reached 4,622 individuals in 2016 through 61 outreach activities. An active Facebook and Twitter presence with over 300 followers, resulted in 86 distinct tobacco and smoke-free policy messages with a reach of over 3,691 on Facebook and 7,788 on Twitter. The East African Smoke Free Program team has also worked with religious leaders, business owners, and event managers to explore and adopt smoke free policies at various institutions, businesses, and events.
The Program has provided, and continues to provide, tobacco-specific and interactive education directly to middle school and high school youth through Metro School College Prep (a Somali Charter School) and The Young Achievers (TYA) after-school program. Over the first four years of the East African Smoke-Free Program, 195 youth were educated about the harms of tobacco and secondhand smoke. There were a total of 20 Youth Tobacco Advocates (15 youth from Young Achievers and 5 from Metro Schools) who graduated from the program.
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