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Opinion: how to close the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternal smoking

Date posted: 22 July 2016

Dr Gillian Sandra Gould, a Research Fellow at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Cancer Institute of New South Wales' (CINSW) Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research at the University of Newcastle, is conducting research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who smoke during pregnancy.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's December 2015 publication, Australia's mothers and babies 2013: in brief reports that around half of pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women smoke compared to one in eight in the non-Indigenous population.

'Children exposed to tobacco smoke before birth are at increased risk of “glue ear”, which causes hearing loss, learning problems and behavioural problems. They are also at greater risk of asthma and bronchiolitis in childhood, and chronic lung disease in adulthood,' said Dr Gould. 'Children born to mothers who smoke are more likely to become smokers. Some try smoking as young as five years old.'

Dr Gould found that although women are aware of the risks, they still smoke and are generally looking for support to help them quit. Three key reccomendations have been made in Dr Gould's research, that she believes require urgent consideration:

On the importance of NRT, Dr Gould says that 'Australian GP guidelines recommend if a woman cannot quit smoking during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, she should be offered...NRT).' Dr Gould also makes the case for appropriate training and more funding for health promotion campaigns, saying that her team is 'developing a webinar intervention with six Aboriginal community controlled health services on how to manage smoking during pregnancy.'

Dr Gould also says that 'Health promotion programs should be delivered to women through targeted print and film media, and during the consultation at primary care services.' Further, that 'Indigenous women must have an opportunity to address their smoking when pregnant. They need to be supported by making essential medications easily available and affordable, building capacity by training health professionals.'

Source: The Conversation

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Last updated: 22 July 2016
 
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute