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12 October 2010
Students from schools in Wales and England are being enrolled in a pioneering programme which will aim to cut the rates of teenage smoking across the UK.
The research programme has already proved a success in preventing young people from starting smoking in a large trial funded by the Medical Research Council. It works by identifying and training the most influential students in schools to meet the challenge of preventing the take-up of smoking among their friends and class mates.
DECIPHer IMPACT Ltd is a joint spin-out initiative between the Universities of Cardiff and Bristol, established to roll out the programme across Wales and the South West of England with funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and Primary Care Trusts in England. It has also generated interested elsewhere in the UK, and if implemented nationally, could cut the numbers of 14-15 year olds taking up smoking by over 40,000.
"Cutting rates of teenage smoking is a public health priority," said co-founder Professor Lawrence Moore, from Cardiff University.
"However our research has shown that teenagers respond far better to anti-smoking messages from their peers than they do from the Government, the NHS, their teachers or even their parents.
"Along with colleagues at Bristol University we are developing a new social enterprise that will make this programme available across the UK. Not only is it based upon years of research at Cardiff and Bristol, we are also helping make our discoveries a reality."
In the longer-term, co-founder Professor Rona Campbell believes the social enterprise can support the roll-out of other evidence-based public health interventions, particularly those developed within the Decipher UK Clinical Research Collaboration’s Public Health Research Centre of Excellence, which aims to develop and evaluate complex interventions to improve public health among children and young people.
"Smoking is our focus at the moment, but the intention is that DECIPHer IMPACT will in the future support the implementation of other effective ways to tackle obesity, alcohol or drug abuse in school children," said Professor Campbell.
DECIPHer IMPACT Ltd is a social enterprise company developed through a collaboration between Cardiff University and the University of Bristol. Professor Laurence Moore of Cardiff University, Professor Rona Campbell of the University of Bristol and colleagues conducted the ASSIST (A Stop Smoking in Schools Trial) study in 59 schools across western England and Wales. The results were published in The Lancet in May 2008.
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