HFP pilots new tobacco training program for early childhood educators

Philadelphia – The Health Federation of Philadelphia’s (HFP) training and consultation division recently developed a new tobacco cessation training program for early childhood educators on behalf of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s (PDPH)Tobacco Policy and Control program. The training curriculum was piloted with early childhood educators in The School District of Philadelphia and HFP’s Early Head Start program.

Early childhood educators were chosen as an audience for this pilot program because of the interaction they have with parents each day.

“These teachers are in the perfect position to educate parents,” said Shandra Banutu-Gomez, the senior training specialist for HFP who developed the curriculum. “We recognize that on a typical day, early childhood educators may only see parents for a short period of time, most likely at child drop-off and pick-up.  This training was designed to teach them how to utilize that time to have brief, yet positive interactions with parents about the harmful impact of tobacco on children.”

The curriculum is comprehensive and includes information about the history of tobacco, the effects of smoking on pregnant women and children, the correlations between smoking and trauma, the difficulties of quitting and how tobacco companies target vulnerable populations. The background information helps set the stage for the hard part – actually talking to parents.

One goal of this curriculum is to empower teachers to have informal discussions with parents rather than a formal sit down talk or lecture. It provides a way to address issues with smoking that come up in the moment – a parent who smokes right outside a center’s front door, a child who comes to school each day smelling like smoke. In a short interaction, teachers can talk to parents without escalating the problem.

Another unique aspect of the curriculum is its training model. It was designed specifically for early childhood educators to train other educators. The pilot was so successful that teachers asked for another curriculum, one developed as a formal education session for parents.

“The teachers recognize that this is something they can do as individuals and as part of an organization and community,” said Banutu-Gomez. “Tobacco use impacts the communities we serve and the communities that we live in. This program illustrates why it matters.”

As a result of the successful pilot program, PDPH plans to take the program to other early childhood education centers and schools beginning this summer. To find out more information or to schedule a training session, contact Shandra Banutu-Gomez.