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Partnering with St. Louis Park public schools to address commercial tobacco use among young people

In 2023, St. Louis Park public schools partnered with Public Health Promotion to reduce vaping and e-cigarette use in their school community. Public Health Promotion’s Health@School team partners with local Hennepin County school districts to prevent and reduce commercial tobacco use among young people.

Health@School’s substance use prevention efforts work with schools to:

  • Convene peer groups of school staff working in substance use prevention.
  • Share substance use prevention resources with Hennepin County school districts.
  • Establish focused partnerships to drive systematic changes that increase opportunities for good health.

Data from the Minnesota student survey and interest from school districts determine partnerships. Since 2021, Health@School’s school partnerships have included Independent School District 728, Westonka Public Schools, Minnetonka Public Schools, and Hopkins Public Schools. In 2024, Health@School will partner with Anoka-Hennepin Schools.

people jumping in the snow

Royalty free photo from Unsplash.

Promoting Public Health in St. Louis Park Public Schools

In February 2023, St. Louis Park Public Schools received a $2,800 partnership award (dedicated state funding/grant) from Health@School to promote a commercial tobacco-free school environment. Working with the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, Public Health Promotion offers technical assistance and funding awards to make policy, system, or environmental changes in key focus areas. With these awards, Health@School guides schools through an assessment and community engagement process and suggests a variety of evidence-based strategies to strengthen prevention that meets school needs.

Kjirsten Hanson, a social worker with St. Louis Park Public Schools, led a school community engagement process using student focus groups, staff interviews, and an online survey of caregivers. School community engagement processes are essential to understanding school community strengths, issues, and needs. Throughout this process, Hanson worked closely with Health@School to apply best practices, evaluation efforts, and incorporate student voices into the work. The assessment unearthed key insights and identified opportunities within the district’s school community to focus commercial tobacco prevention efforts and protect the health of young people.

kids in classroom listening to the teacher

Royalty free photo from Unsplash.

St. Louis Park Public Schools decided to review their commercial tobacco-related school policies, an evidence-based strategy that Public Health Promotion advises in policy, systems, and environmental change work. Through the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership award, the Health@School team connected Hanson with the Public Health Law Center to review the district’s policies and share policy change recommendations with school leaders. This process is still underway as of December 2023.

Substance use prevention work continues in St. Louis Park public schools

The momentum gathered from the school community engagement process and policy revision work continues in the St. Louis Park school community. The district partnered with the St. Louis Park Schools and Community Foundation to purchase community viewing rights and a school license for Screenagers Under the Influence: Addressing Vaping, Drugs, and Alcohol in the Digital Age.

The documentary was screened at an evening community viewing and resource fair on October 24, 2023. The event was attended by school staff and a Latinx community liaison. The resource fair featured organizations prioritizing youth mental health and well-being, including:

welcome table at a community event

The welcome table at the community event shared information and provided snacks for attendees.

The documentary was also viewed by all staff and approximately 1,400 students at St. Louis Park High School during Park Connections (advisory) period. There will be three follow-up lessons on substance use prevention and cessation. Staff gave positive responses about the film, while student responses were mixed.

Health@School’s Unique Role in Youth Substance Use Prevention

Youth substance use prevention is a focus of the Health@School’s work beyond the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership awards for youth commercial tobacco prevention. The team assembles a bi-annual newsletter with substance use prevention resources for Hennepin County’s school districts. Quarterly, Health@School convenes school staff members from various school districts working in substance use prevention.

This networking group encourages school employees to develop relationships with others across the county, identify shared challenges and best practices, and provide support to each other. Health@School works with others in the Public Health Promotion program to incorporate youth substance use prevention considerations into city planning, community partnerships, and other county-level public health efforts.


For questions regarding Health@School’s work, contact Cathy Rude at More public health resources are linked below.