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 Bristol and Cardiff, established to roll out the programme across the South West of England and Wales with funding from Primary Care Trusts in England and the Welsh Assembly Government. 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 Rona Campbell, from the University of Bristol’s School of Social & Community Medicine.
“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 Cardiff 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 Bristol and Cardiff, we are also helping make our discoveries a reality.”
In the longer-term Professor Laurence Moore of Cardiff University 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 Prof Moore.
DECIPHer IMPACT Ltd is a social enterprise company developed through a collaboration between the University of Bristol and Cardiff University. Professor Rona Campbell of the University of Bristol and Professor Laurence Moore of Cardiff University 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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