Tobacco doesn’t just affect smokers. In fact, 88 million non-smoking adults and children were exposed to secondhand smoke in the U.S. in 2007-08. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at high risk for serious health consequences, such as low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, middle-ear infection and other diseases, affecting not only their health, but also school readiness.
The federal Head Start program was launched in the summer of 1965 as part of the “War on Poverty.” Head Start and Early Head Start (HS/EHS) have since served as models for high quality comprehensive service designed to nurture children and families of lower income levels intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically so that children are prepared to start school and reach their fullest potential. Recognizing the benefit of partnering with Head Start to address the disparities in reaching individuals with low socioeconomic status (SES), Legacy, in partnership with Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, led and funded the Head Start Tobacco Cessation Initiative. The initiative was designed to work off of the overall mission of HS/EHS by enabling participating sites to incorporate cessation identification and referral protocols into their existing child development. The initiative seeks to increase awareness of the health consequences of tobacco use, reduce children’s exposure to secondhand smoke, and increase the capacity of Head Start programs to address tobacco cessation and secondhand smoke.