KINGMAN — A new Mohave County program aims to address a series of countywide public health concerns: an alarming use of tobacco among youth, significantly high rates of adult smoking and more deaths due to cancer compared to the national average.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert and the Mohave County Department of Public Health recently launched a youth-savvy tobacco prevention and cessation program for middle and high schools in Mohave County. The free, online program ASPIRE, short for “A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience,” was developed by the Youth & Family Cancer Prevention Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the nation’s leading cancer centers. The program is available in English and Spanish. 

ASPIRE provides an engaging, evidence-based curriculum for youth to learn about the dangers of tobacco use, encouraging them to quit smoking or, better yet, never start. The program incorporates video game-like components, customized messages, graphics, animations and streaming video.

“Nearly a quarter of adults in Mohave County smoke cigarettes, and this habit in families tends to become generational,” said Susan Williams, coordinator of Tobacco Use and Chronic Disease Prevention Program in the Mohave County Department of Public Health. “The ASPIRE program is an important opportunity to educate youth on the hazards of tobacco use and help encourage Mohave County students to become a tobacco-free generation.”

While tobacco use remains the largest preventable cause of death in the U.S., statistics in Mohave County are particularly sobering:

About 28 percent of students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades in Mohave County have smoked at least one cigarette, compared to 23 percent statewide, according to the county’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment.

The county’s incidence of lung and bronchus cancer is 77 per 100,000 people, much higher than Arizona’s rate of 52 per 100,000, the county report said.

The age-adjusted death rate due to cancer in Mohave County is 206 per 100,000 people, compared to the median of all U.S. states at 185 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ASPIRE program soon will be available for all Mohave County students ages 11 to 18. It’s designed to be accessible anywhere there is internet access, said Katarina Scott, wellness program counselor at Banner MD Anderson.

ASPIRE aims to motivate youth by offering interactive activities, testimonies from peers and medical experts, and information about short- and long-term health consequences of tobacco and nicotine use. The program also includes content about new and emerging products, such as e-cigs and synthetic marijuana, and offers tips and resources to avoid the temptation to smoke or to stop smoking.

The Mohave County ASPIRE program will be funded through a $5,000 donation by the nonprofit Banner Health Foundation and initiated through the James M. Cox Foundation Center for Cancer Prevention and Integrative Oncology at Banner MD Anderson. The program is free and available to all school districts, the donation will cover the cost of program resources like internet access, online devices and/or teacher/student support. 

For more information about ASPIRE in Arizona, contact Scott at Katarina.scott@bannerhealth.com or by calling 480-256-5295.

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