A Fall 2023 wellness week was held at the Hmong College Prep Academy for 9th grade students. The wellness week is centered around teaching youth important topics to inform and empower them to make positive and healthy choices. This is in hopes of influencing their future and their community’s quality of life and well-being. This week was hosted by Asian Media Access, Encouraging Leaders, Neighborhood HealthSource, Prairie Seed Academy, and Tobacco-Free Alliance MN. Each day was represented by one of the hosts and presented topics included bicultural healthy living, domestic violence, gun violence prevention, mental health, and smoking prevention.
To help the youth retain and reflect on the topics, each class period at the end of the week plays a Kahoot game. Kahoot is a quiz game that can help show how quickly and accurately the youth can recognize the key takeaways of the presentation. Throughout the quiz, we review the question and answers to provide clarity, allowing students to improve their understanding and learning of the topics, especially the difference between the answers. The results of the Kahoot game showed that a majority of the students were able to retain the materials and comprehend the topics. Students received high scores and most of the questions were answered correctly. However, the most commonly missed question across the class periods was whether smoking was the number one cause of preventable death. Preventable death indicates that we can avoid a cause of death if we do not participate. Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death. We can even prevent harmful health risks including chronic and irreversible diseases that are associated by smoking and secondhand smoke.
Prevention topics in particular are important to introduce early on for youth to be proactive and prepared to make informed decisions for their well-being, family, friends, and community. In addition, marketing for smoking is often aimed at a younger audience. The earlier the youth begins smoking, the earlier that addiction begins and that person becomes a lifetime user and customer. Alternative smoking such as Juuls and Ecigs with advertising flavors such as ‘strawberry’ and ‘bubblegum’ have also been used to entice youth. The flavors and the marketed healthier option invites youth to think that these are safer options than smoking cigarettes. It is important to note that even marketing as a safer alternative does not mean that the product is safe for use overall. Due to the advertising that appeals and influences younger audiences, it is also essential to provide youth with the potential risk and consequences.
It is important to teach about prevention, but it is also important to share the courage to speak about the cessation of behaviors to help them learn how to protect their health. Smoking is a decision that not only impacts the person who uses it but also those who surround them too. Many youth shared that they knew at least one person in their life that smokes. Some of the youth shared that they struggle with finding the words to speak on smoking and understanding the addiction. Know the Truth promotes smoking cessation through sharing lived experiences, journey to recovery with effective coping strategies, and devoting time to demystify the stigma and promote talking openly about the topic.
Each one of these presentations shared the importance of youth having the voice and choice to make an impact. The wellness week overall shared the benefits of prevention, taking care of mental health, and embracing their biculturalism.