NRVCS teams with Head Start to educate families about impact of secondhand, thirdhand smoke on children

By Rene’ Cox, Behavioral Health Wellness Specialist, NRVCS

New River Valley Community Services (NRVCS) recently partnered with New River Community Action Head Start to promote awareness and education about secondhand and thirdhand smoke to area families. The prevention-related materials are being distributed to 319 families and 60 staff and have been made possible through grant funding from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. 

Exposure to secondhand and thirdhand smoke has health consequences that can last a lifetime. According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Thirdhand smoke is residual nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. As it clings to clothing, furniture, bedding, vehicles and other surfaces, the residue presents a potential health hazard to nonsmokers – particularly children – due to their tendency to touch objects with their hands and mouth.

Giving credible information to parents and guardians about health consequences of smoking or vaping in the home or car with small children present may result in adults refraining from these activities in the presence of youth.

“Our goal is to take a lead – by working with community partners – in addressing this issue,” explained Rene’ Cox, a Behavioral Health Wellness Specialist with NRVCS. “The Head Start program has always championed healthy lifestyle practices and it’s important that we share this information with families of young children.” 

Head Start parents in Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties and the City of Radford, received an informational flyer, along with a pledge to sign that indicates by signing that they choose to live and ride smoke- and vape-free around children. Families also received a car magnet for their vehicle and a refrigerator magnet for their home as reminders of their pledge.

The artwork featured on the refrigerator magnet was created by Kenleigh, age 4, a student at Pearisburg Head Start.

“We were excited to hear Kenleigh had won,” shared Emily Perkins, Giles Head Start Site Administrator.

“She is a sweet, but very shy little girl,” Perkins added. “When she heard her artwork was chosen her smile lit up the room. I know it gave her self- esteem a giant boost. Thank you for allowing our children to participate in this project.”