RMH youth tobacco prevention program awarded $179K grant

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has awarded a $178,770 grant to the Strong Families/Great Youth Coalition’s Toward No Tobacco program to support and expand tobacco prevention classes for middle school students.

TNT is a two-week evidence-based tobacco prevention class taught to seventh-graders in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and Augusta County by RMH respiratory therapist Ron Cople.

“TNT helps teach students how to counteract social pressure to use tobacco while raising awareness of misleading social information,” said Tonya Osinkosky, health education and awareness coordinator, RMH Community Health. “The program also provides students with information about the physical consequences and addictive nature of tobacco.”

In 1998, when TNT was introduced, 34 percent of eighth-graders surveyed reported using tobacco monthly while the average age youths began using tobacco was 12 years. By 2010, Osinkosky said, the number of eighth-graders using tobacco dropped to 19 percent while the average age of youths beginning to use tobacco increased to 13 years.

“We know programs like this can make a difference, and we are pleased that this grant will enable the classes to continue, supporting RMH’s commitment to community health,” Osinkosky said.

When the TNT program began, it provided outreach to students in only Rockingham and Augusta Counties. In 2010, the RMH Foundation awarded a $5,660 grant to expand the program to Harrisonburg City Schools.

In 2011, the TNT program was recognized by the American Hospital Association in its annual report, “Caring for Communities,” which highlights best community health practices.

RMH is a co-leading agency for the Strong Families/Great Youth Coalition, along with the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board and the Office on Children and Youth. The coalition was formed to increase collaboration, reduce duplication of services, coordinate funding efforts, collect data and increase efforts to positively affect the community’s perception of youth and youth behaviors.

Visit the Strong Families/Great Youth Coalition at sfgyc.com.

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, formally known as the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation, was established by the Virginia General Assembly. The foundation leads efforts to reduce youth tobacco use and obesity in the commonwealth. In 1998, the Attorneys General from 46 states signed a Master Settlement Agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to recoup costs associated with tobacco related illnesses.


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