The California Health Collaborative's "Unidos Por Salud" (United for Health) focuses on empowering Wasco High School youth to be advocates in the community, raising awareness about the dangers of tobacco use.
CHC is a nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life and health of the people of California, particularly the underserved and underrepresented.
Celeste Ramos has been a project coordinator for the program since 2019.
"With our youth program, we work primarily with the Latino community to reduce tobacco-related health disparities and improve the population's health and equity."
In California, there is a high population of Latinos, and many are only Spanish speakers who may not get the resources in their language on the health effects of tobacco use. Some also live in rural areas where the nearest health centers are miles away.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among the Hispanic population.
The students working with the program must be interested in tobacco control prevention and want to make a positive change in their community.
They work on various activities and projects. CHC staff provides them with the skills and the training they need to be community champions.
The students participate in tabling events on their campus. They do the outreach themselves, talking to their peers at career fairs and lunchtime.
"Not only do they participate in collecting data as a coalition, but they have also conducted store observations in Wasco."
During this, they went into tobacco retailers to see what they sell, their marketing and accessibility to these products.
They have also collected petitions at community events.
"Students have an opportunity to present to other peers and share their accomplishment with the other three coalitions in Hanford, Reedley and Dos Palos."
In March 2020, they attended a Wasco City Council meeting providing education on youth and tobacco use. They also presented local data they collected and offered policy options to protect Wasco youth from flavored tobacco use.
Soon they will travel to the state capitol for a one-day event to educate state legislators on the work they have done in their community toward tobacco use prevention.
The work the youth are carrying out is directly related to SB 793, a California law prohibiting the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco enhancers.
There are fines to retailers or employees if they are found to be in violation.
Ramos said of the youth in the program, "We look forward to seeing them flourish. Many of them are seniors, and we will always be here for them after graduation."