Heidelberg’s primary smoking prevention program for pupils – „ohnekippe“
Smoking is the most severe and avoidable health risk of our time. In Germany, nearly 140.000 people die from the consequences of smoking related diseases every year. More than half of all smokers started smoking at the age of 15 – 18 years. Due to the very high addictive nature of tobacco smoking, primary smoking prevention programs should be implemented at an early age before nicotine addiction takes hold.
The Thoraxklinik in Heidelberg, a member of the DZL, actively addressed this need for primary prevention in the young as one of the first institutions in Germany. In the year 2000, Prof. Drings, the medical director at the time, started the smoking prevention program “ohnekippe” in order to raise awareness in children and adolescents about risks and consequences of smoking. The program is now in its 13th year, offering an instructive and interactively designed information event for pupils aged between 12 – 14 years. DZL PI Prof. Felix Herth supervises the scientific aspects of the “ohnekippe” programme, while Mr. Michael Ehmann oversees the educational contents and the administration of the program. In addition, the event is supported by several medical and non-medical employees of the Thoraxklinik.
The event takes place about twice a week, lasts for two hours at a time, and consists of three parts. In part one, pupils learn about the detrimental health aspects of smoking in an age appropriate manner. In part two, a bronchoscopy including the sampling of lung tissue is live broadcast to the class of pupils. In part three, the pupils witness an experienced medical interviewer talking to a patient who suffers from a severe lung disease caused by smoking. This allows them to interact directly with the patient and the carer to find out about the causes and consequences of smoking first hand.
Based on the diverse mix of educational tools employed the organizers retain the pupils attention throughout the 2-hour session. The event itself is complemented by an intensive phase of preparation and follow-up, which is conducted by well-trained former participants of the “ohnekippe” event, referred to as scouts. Through the involvement of these scouts the efficacy and sustainability of the prevention program can significantly be strengthened. The concept “from pupils for pupils” helps to minimize the prescriptive character of ‘normal’ prevention lessons and thus increases the willingness to get involved with this topic. Furthermore, the participants in the prevention program give a presentation about the event to their teachers, peers and parents. By involvement of the parental home at this final stage smoking prevention becomes a family affair.
By 2013, about 180.000 pupils from the region of Mannheim, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis und Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis participated in the “ohnekippe” prevention program. The success and efficacy of the program can be measured not only based on the many letters sent by teachers, pupils and parents to the Thoraxklinik or to the patients that gave their time to this program, but also from the hard facts provided by the data of the microcensus 2009, which were published a few months ago.
These data reveal that the number of young smokers aged 15-19 years has decreased significantly by 7.8% from 2005 to 2009 in the catchment area of “ohnekippe”. In 2009, smoking prevalence in this age group was much lower (11.8%) in the catchment area compared to the rest of the county of Baden Württemberg (16.0%) and all of Germany (17.5%) .
The microcensus data demonstrate that smoking prevention programs for young people can be effective, if they are appropriately designed. Therefore, similar programs should be implemented all over Germany, since primary prevention is the best “treatment” for smoking related diseases.
The program recently received a prize for innovation from Bayer HealthCare AG (5000€) for their Stop Smoking App that can be downloaded from iTunes for free. For more information please see this press release (in German) from the UniversitätsKlinkum Heidelberg.
Reference: Mikrozensus 2005 und 2009, Statistisches Landesamt Baden-Württemberg, Referat 24-Mikrozensus, Erwerbstätigkeit, Wohnungswesen, Wahlen.