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Understanding further education as a context for public health intervention: qualitative findings from a study process evaluation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
DateSubmitted - Dec 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 7 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - 4 Jun 2019


Background: Over 1.2 million 16-18 year-olds are enrolled in further education (FE) in the UK. Entering this environment, they may be exposed to novel influences and initiate new behaviours. FE thus presents an opportunity for public health improvement, yet few interventions target this setting. Using a smoking prevention intervention, we explore how young people were viewed in FE and how this affected intervention acceptability.
Methods: Eleven student and five staff focus groups were conducted in two colleges and one school sixth-form, within the process evaluation of a smoking prevention feasibility study. Five semi-structured interviews with FE managers were also conducted. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: In both colleges and the sixth-form, students were viewed as emergent adults and treated differently to ‘school children’, in practice if not in policy. Smoking was permitted in designated areas in colleges; in the sixth-form smoking was unofficially tolerated but concealed from younger students. Using staff to deliver anti-smoking messages was deemed inappropriate because it reintroduced an unwanted power dynamic, disrupting perceptions of students as young adults.
Conclusions: FE is an important setting for young people. Understanding the culture and context of FE is critical in designing acceptable and effective public health interventions.

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