Significant pilot projects at two historically Black colleges and universities will train students to gather more data and address the problems facing African American smokers. The programs may well provide policy models for other HBCUs around the country.
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, N.C. and Morgan State University in Baltimore are among 40 organizations receiving part of a $21 million grant from the American Legacy Foundation. The nonprofit organization, whose goal is to decrease tobacco use in the United States, was founded as part of the 1998 settlement between 46 states and the major tobacco companies. American Legacy's Priority Population program grants are aimed at fighting tobacco use among racial and ethnic minorities, low-income and other populations.
African Americans are no more likely to smoke than Whites--the smoking rate is 26.7 percent for African American adults compared with 25.3 percent for Whites. But they are more likely to suffer from and die of lung cancer and related problems than Whites because of limited access to health care, later detection, less aggressive treatment and other factors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 45,000 African Americans die of a preventable smoking-related disease annually. Smoking is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer cases, and African American men are at least 50 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than White men. However, by most accounts the tobacco control movement traditionally has been a White initiative. The American Legacy Foundation, however, hopes to raise awareness.
NCCU's $100,000 pilot program goal is to develop leadership, advocacy and coalition-building skills on tobacco issues. The program centers on a two-semester class, which begins next spring. Students gather information about smoking rates, students' habits and the effectiveness of nonsmoking policies on the NCCU campus. Students will learn important health information as well as hone future career skills, say grant principal investigators Dr. David Jolly, an assistant professor of health education and Dr. Patricia Wigfall, associate professor of public administration at NCCU. Students will conduct surveys, interviews and focus groups. In addition, they will talk to organizations and invite health researchers to come speak. During the second semester, students will assess the data and learn how to identify policy initiatives. Jolly says students probably would select two initiatives to pursue. Examples of final initiatives might be whether the university should expand smoking cessation efforts or more strictly enforce its nonsmoking policy. The students' work likely will expand to the city of Durham.
"The course will allow students to look at how public policy is made and what influences public policy," Wigfall says. "One goal is to give students the public policy skills to be players."
The project also will create a more knowledgeable citizenry, Jolly says. "They will leave the course better informed about tobacco."
Statistics from the surgeon general report that the smoking rate among Black teen-agers rose sharply in the 1990s after two decades of decline. …