elli England Will, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, has been awarded a three-year, $430,000 grant by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to examine the experiences and perspectives of Hampton Roads youth on e-cigarettes.

Kelli England Will, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, has been awarded a three-year, $430,000 grant by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to examine the experiences and perspectives of Hampton Roads youth on e-cigarettes. This community-wide research, which begins July 1, will allow development of risk-communication approaches that teens will see as relevant, motivating and engaging. 

Working with Dr. Will on the project team are Amy Paulson, MPH, Instructor of Pediatrics; Matt Herman, MPH, Instructor of Pediatrics; and Andrew Plunk, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, all from the division of Pediatrics Community Health and Research. They will partner on the research with CINCH (Consortium for Infant and Child Health) and the YMCA of South Hampton Roads.  

“This is important research with a great deal of collaboration,” Dr. Will says, “because we need a lot of heads looking at the problem. We want to move beyond just making teens aware of concerns we have around e-cigarettes. We want to move toward motivating changes in behavior.” 

To that end, a 25-member Teen Advisory Council and a community panel of subject matter experts in public health and the related sciences will play key roles in accomplishing three goals. 

First, they will identify mediating knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to teen use and acceptance of e-cigarettes, including the relationship between smoking traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Second, they will work with teens to develop effective risk-communication messages and dissemination pathways. Third, they will establish the effectiveness of campaign messages and dissemination pathways on knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. 

“It’s important to conduct this type of study now because e-cigarette use is becoming trendy,” Dr. Will says, “and we need to get at the root of what teenagers know and what their attitudes are toward vaping. I believe our research is going to lead to a lot more work down the road that can be used not only regionally and at the state level, but even nationally.”