Andrew Russell and Jane Macnaughton write: Members of the Smoking Interest Group are setting out on an exciting new collaborative project linking young people in the UK with their counterparts in Uruguay to share experience and activities in relation to tobacco control.
Discouraging young people from starting to smoke, or helping them to quit if they have started, are recognised as amongst the most challenging but important public health promotion activities. The ‘Espacio Ciencia’ (‘Science Space’) in Montevideo, Uruguay, has developed a unique interactive, multisensory exhibition designed to discourage children and young people from smoking. ‘Respira Uruguay’ (‘Breathe Uruguay’) opened in 2006. It is a 150m2 exhibit using a variety of different interactive components to demonstrate to children and young people in an engaging and enjoyable way some of the health and other dangers posed by tobacco (see images). It has won the highest level accolades from the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan, who is keen to promote the creation of other versions of the installation for use in different countries. Thus an English language version of the installation has been displayed in the Natural Science Museum (Durban, South Africa) and, latterly, Johannesburg. (An English language video of the Espacio Ciencia exhibit can be seen here)
‘Respira Uruguay’ was the subject of a presentation at the 14th Conference on Tobacco or Health held in Mumbai , India, in March 2009, attended by Andrew Russell, a CMH Affiliate from the Department of Anthropology and co-chair of the Smoking Interest Group. Andrew was subsequently able to visit Uruguay in November 2010, on a Santander mobility grant, to see the exhibition for himself and to explore the potential for a new English language version to be brought to the UK. On his return to the UK he made contact with W-West, a young people’s organisation based in Glasgow, Scotland, which has been raising awareness about smoking and how it affects people since 2008. Working with the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, W-West is a peer-led group working to find out more about tobacco and to impart this knowledge to the wider community through a variety of events and activities. They have been involved in a number of campaigning issues such as under the counter sales and plain packaging, and they are now looking for a fresh project to work together on. They are now interested in the possibility of developing their own, culturally adapted version of the exhibition to bring to Scotland, where arrangements have been made to house it at the Glasgow Science Centre. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland has also taken this up as a priority project for its work with young people in 2012.
‘Respira Uruguay’ has been in place for over five years now and those who originally developed it are interested in renewing certain elements and in the possibility of involving young people in this work. Representatives from both the Espacio Ciencia and CIET (‘Centre for Information about the Tobacco Epidemic’) are keen to learn more about what can be done in this field through sharing their exhibition with representatives from Durham University, W-West and Ash-Scotland. CIET has recently established a young person’s group similar to W-West.
Thus from 10th-19th February a group comprising researchers from SIG at Durham University and participants from W-West and Ash-Scotland will visit Uruguay to experience the exhibition for themselves, reflect on how it is currently set up and used, and make suggestions, derived from up-to-the-minute research evidence from around the world, for the redevelopment of existing elements in the exhibition in Uruguay. The group will also decide what elements would work (with appropriate ‘cultural detailing’) in Glasgow, and what new elements would be necessary to add to make it culturally compelling for a UK audience. At the same time, W-West will be able to share with counterparts in Uruguay their experience of working as youth advocates in tobacco control and to support the development of an equivalent group in that country with which they could work interactively in the future.
Uruguay and Scotland share many similarities (despite their differing success at international football!) and there is a long history of contact between the two countries. Both are small with a history of domination by larger neighbours (Argentina and Brazil in the case of Uruguay, England in the case of Scotland). Both have populations of just over 3 million, the majority based in urban centres (the capital, Montivedeo, in the case of Uruguay and the Central Lowlands of Scotland). Both have innovative and forward-thinking public health policies and practices, led by individuals with a commitment to supporting public health measures aimed at reducing the prevalence of tobacco in their countries. Thus it makes particular sense for Scotland and Uruguay to come together through the medium of young people in a spirit of cross-cultural sharing and exchange. In this way, the stage will be set for a world-class exhibit to be developed for the Science Centre in Glasgow, and for the Espacio Ciencia and other organisations in Uruguay to gain a deeper understanding of potential for young people to undertake advocacy work in tobacco control, insights which can be used not only to enhance the ‘Respira Uruguay’ exhibition but smoking prevention initiatives more generally.
Following the visit, members of the Smoking Interest Group at Durham University will continue to work collaboratively with the W-West group, Ash-Scotland, the Espacio Ciencia and CIET, using their research expertise to help develop a world-class exhibit for the Science Centre in Glasgow, to enhance the ‘Respira Uruguay’ exhibition and smoking prevention initiatives more generally, and to facilitate the ongoing exchange between W-West and CIET’s young person’s advocacy group. During the visit SIG will work with both the Glasgow and Uruguay groups using participatory action research methodologies to ensure that both sides obtain maximum benefit from the exchange, and to record and analyse the nature and quality of the outcomes generated by it.
This multipurpose visit is generously funded by Andrew’s National Teaching Fellowship Award, the Santander Mobility Grant scheme, a Crofton Award, ASH-Scotland and CMH. The team from SIG is led by Andrew Russell and comprises Jane Macnaughton, Sue Lewis and Megan Wainwright. Apart from the young people from W-West, an important member of the team will be Euan Russell (Andrew and Jane’s 9 year-old son) who is setting off on his first trip as a young participatory researcher! The team is completed by Melanie Owens (W-West) and Brian Pringle (Ash-Scotland).
Look out for a post from Uruguay in a week or so!