Tobacco-Free Ambassador Partnership: Empowering Youth Advocates in Appalachian Communities

Melinda J. Ickes, Shannon Sampson, Josh Parsons, Mary Kay Rayens, Min Xiao, Amy Fisher, Monica Mundy, Ellen J. Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Kentucky youth (14.3%) smoke more cigarettes as compared to the U.S. average (8.8%), and Appalachian communities suffer disproportionately from tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer. Training youth to become advocates is an effective strategy to improve health equity. This article describes the development and impact of a youth advocacy program to promote tobacco control policies in Appalachian Kentucky. Phase I (2017-2018): two ½-day trainings followed by monthly meetings with one high school (n = 20 youth). Trainings provided information on tobacco use, consequences, industry tactics, evidence-based tobacco control, and advocacy skills. Results provided support for expansion to Phase II (2018-20119): A 1-day training followed by monthly information sharing implemented in three counties (N = 80). Youth were surveyed before and 6-months posttraining during both phases. Phase I: At posttraining, 85% of youth believed they could reduce the amount of tobacco use in their community versus 66% at baseline. More students tried at least once to convince school or government officials to be more concerned about tobacco use (77% vs. 47%). Phase II: More students supported tobacco policies at posttraining survey and realized policies are an effective strategy to reduce tobacco use. At posttraining survey, students reported greater interpersonal confidence talking with others about tobacco-related issues, with a 24% increase in confidence talking with adults in their communities, as well as greater advocacy self-efficacy. Youth in Appalachia demonstrate desire to influence tobacco use and policy to improve health equity. Findings reinforce the need for collaborative public health interventions to promote ongoing training and support for youth living in high-risk communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98S-109S
JournalHealth Promotion Practice
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Public Health Education.


  • empowerment
  • tobacco control
  • tobacco policy
  • youth advocacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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