A delegation of students from the school along with Ms Jyoti Sharma participated in the “Interaction with youth health advocates engaged in school health programs’ co-organized by Public Health Foundation of India and the NGO, HRIDAY on January 13, 2012 at the PHD House, New Delhi. The students were Shivang Sethi , Akshay Gugnani , M. Sachitanand , Aishwarya Mehra and Mohita Suyal.
The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ms Kathleen Sebelius was the Chief Guest at the event and led the high profile delegation of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Secretary Sebelius has led ambitious efforts to improve America’s health and enhance delivery of human services to vulnerable populations. In 2011, Forbes named her the 13th most powerful woman in the world.
The interaction focused on the importance and efficacy of school based health promotion programs especially tobacco prevention programs in schools. Youth health advocates discussed strategies that worked and shared experiences from India.
Ms Sebelius emphasized the importance of policy intervention in controlling and preventing tobacco usage among youth. She gave the example of President Obama who not only quit smoking but strongly advocates and supports measures to discourage and prevent smoking among the youth. Other prominent speakers from the US Department of Health and Human Services included Dr Roger I Glass, Deputy Director, National Institute of Health, USA, Dr Nils Daulaire, Director, Department of Global Affairs, Dr Anand Parakh, U.S Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Thomas Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The delegates referred to the need to engage with youth in advancing steps towards tobacco cessation. Policy measures implemented in the US to prevent use of tobacco were also highlighted. These include eliminating sale of tobacco products through vending machines, levying taxes on cigarettes and printing warning labels on cigarette packages. M-health measures such as texting messages to prevent smoking have been extremely effective in the US.
Concluding that behavioural changes are most critical speakers urged for strengthening of tobacco control in India through implementation of policies and effective enforcement of tobacco control legislation, enhancement of youth engagement in tobacco control related activities and capacity building of multiple stakeholders at various levels.