Funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to cease, driving the program to pursue alternative sources of funding.
Webster Groves High School was filled with pictures of a cigarette and a smoggy grim reaper last year, funded by the program AirO2Dynamic.
AirO2Dynamic is the St. Louis County Department of Health’s youth engagement team. The team has focused on tobacco because of grant funding; however its advocacy role will soon be expanded to include other health campaigns as well. The AirO2Dynamic team has been very active in promotions with the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Blues. The team has participated in community events including activities for Kick Butts Day, Red Ribbon Week, World No Tobacco Day and the Chris Brown Concert at Verizon Amphitheatre.
Currently, the program is funded by the Department of Health through a grant from the CDC.
“Funding for the program could continue from within the health department; it is also possible that other grant funding will be sought to maintain youth engagement efforts,” said media coordinator—of the Saint Louis County Department of Health, Patricia Washington.
Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, director of the County Health Department, has affirmed commitment to maintaining a strong youth engagement team once CDC funding ends.
“Youth have a vital role to play in community advocacy particularly as it relates to health issues in general and public health specifically,” said Washington.
“It is extremely important for local youth to be involved in issues that impact them personally,” Washington added.
The State of Missouri does not currently provide funding for the program’s efforts; however, members of the program such as Dr. Gunn have built strategic relationships at the State level that could be beneficial as funding is sought for youth engagement efforts.
Despite funding dilemmas, the program will continue to engage in youth tobacco awareness.
The program has a youth Health and Wellness conference coming up on April 28, at St. Louis Community College—Florissant Valley Campus. AirO2Dynamic will help facilitate conference sessions and the Town Hall Meeting following the conference.
The program also plans to launch a new youth counter-marketing campaign this summer. The campaign focuses on tobacco industry marketing and manipulation of teens. The campaign will be heavily supported with social media and peer engagement activities with AirO2Dynamic.