Background: Promoting awareness of tobacco and cancer in the community needs multipronged efforts. We performed a study to evaluate whether we could raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco, oral and esophageal cancer among school students by providing them health education. Moreover, we also compared the awareness level in students of age group 12 to ≤14 years with the age group >14 to 18 years.
Methods: We conducted an awareness program in the schools of Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra state. Students aged 12-18 years participated in this study. We provided health education to school students using a standard presentation; the presentation was rich in illustrations depicting the harmful effects of tobacco as well as oral and esophageal cancer's signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures. After the health talk, a questionnaire was circulated. The questions were focused on tobacco, signs, and symptoms of the diseases along with early detection, prevention, and treatment of cancer.
Results: A total of 1354 students participated in the program. Totally, 567 (41.9%) students were from 6th to 8th grade (Group A, age group 12 to ≤14) and 787 (58.1%) students were from 9th to 12th standards (Group B, age group >14 to 18). Overall scores were high, ranging from 69% to 98%. Group A scored in the range of 69% to 95%, and Group B scored in the range 72%-98% The difference between the two groups was found to be statistically significant (P-value ≤0.05).
Conclusion: A standardized health education program helped to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco and cancer amongst school children. Further studies are needed to evaluate whether educating school children has an impact on community understanding of the disease.
Keywords: Awareness; cancer awareness program health promotion; schools; students; tobacco prevention..