As history has taught us, young people are the ones who ignite change. They are the ones who question the status quo and imagine how things could be done differently, turning their passion into action. Working to engage these youth, The Lung Association is running a Youth Advocacy Training Institute (YATI) program, one that began in 2005 with funding from the former Ministry of Health Promotion in support of the Smoke-Free Ontario strategy.
YATI equips youth, young adults and adults working with youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent and reduce tobacco use, promote health and advocate for positive change in their communities through youth engagement. YATI does this through training programs and partnership projects that support the government’s goal of reaching the lowest smoking rate in Canada.
YATI services are grounded in best practice and founded on principles of youth engagement and positive youth development. Best practice in youth tobacco prevention demonstrates that approaches are more successful when they:
- Utilize a peer-to-peer approach
- Employ youth engagement in planning, development and implementation
- Use multi-faceted interactive learning opportunities for knowledge gain, use targeted approaches with priority populations
- Utilize social and multimedia.
“Over the five years I’ve volunteered with YATI, I can say that this program is a big reason as to why I have developed strong communication and interpersonal skills. The support you get from the staff and other volunteers is remarkable. The various opportunities available is one of the vital reasons I stayed in this program, from public speaking to graphic design, journalism; YATI provides many open doors. I got the chance to explore so many personal strengths and improve upon weaknesses. This program encompasses a perfect support system for a youth trying to find their passion as well as looking to meet amazing new people.” – Tirthesha, Youth Advocate
On May 31st, 2016, YATI attended a Smoke-Free Ontario celebration at Queen’s Park. YATI had been nominated for a Heather Crowe Smoke-Free Ontario Award (2016) and received a certificate of acknowledgement recognizing our contributions to a Smoke-Free Ontario. In order to be eligible for an award, individuals or organizations must have:
- A demonstrated record of excellence and outstanding contributions to Ontario’s Tobacco Control Efforts
- Demonstrated significant impact on tobacco control at the local, regional and provincial level and demonstrated champion or role model where their contributions have led to the adoption of new tobacco control practices by others
An investment in our youth today will see great social returns in the future. The Lung Association recognizes this truth by engaging this motivated group in our mission to help more people breathe.
In 2016-2017 YATI reached 4,217 youth and young adults, and 1219 adults through 118 trainings, summits, partnership projects, volunteer opportunities and special events for a total of 5,436 people.