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Smoking rates among pregnant Indigenous women tackled in major research project

Date posted: 26 September 2017

It is hoped a large-scale research project will help provide clearer solutions for tackling smoking rates among pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across the country.

In 2014, it was reported 45% of surveyed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers smoked during pregnancy, compared to 13% of non-Indigenous pregnant women.

Those figures have spurred University of Newcastle Associate Professor, Gillian Gould, to study what can be done to help reduce rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women smoking while pregnant.

'We know now that quite a few chronic diseases are set up by babies being exposed to smoking when they're in the womb,' said Associate Professor Gould.'It's not only that they may be born with low birth rate, or have risks of premature birth, but it can set them up for things like obesity, diabetes, a higher risk of heart disease, and lots of respiratory illnesses. From that point of view, it is important. We know that one of the problems is that women are not given enough help to quit smoking.'

Associate Professor Gould has been working on the multi-phase research project for a number of years.

In the first phase of the study, the research team worked with Indigenous communities in the New South Wales (NSW) Hunter Valley to develop a suite of resources to train health providers in supporting women while they quit smoking. Many of those resources have been digitally focused.

Phase two involved a pilot project using those resources, and was implemented in NSW, South Australia and Queensland.

'We had trained all of the health providers at those services,' Associate Professor Gould said. 'We wanted to be able to reach out eventually to any service in Australia through the internet, so we decided to do that through interactive webinars.'

With the pilot study finished, the research is now expanding into 30 Aboriginal medical centres around the country, with the SISTAQUIT project aiming to help 450 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women quit smoking.

'We will link up with the services, and we're conducting three one-hour webinars, which will be live and interactive,' Associate Professor Gould said. 'We [also] have this booklet that women receive, and within that booklet are embedded different videos.'

'The women can use an app on their phone, and when they scan the little screenshot of the video that's in the booklet, they can hear [information] from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals which is going to help them quit smoking. We're mainly aiming it at the health professionals — GPs, midwives, Aboriginal health workers — to give them training, and then they have these resources that are going to, in consultation with women, help them quit,' she said.'

We want to show that SISTAQUIT works, and that women are able to quit with our approach. By doing it this way and being able to do it in enough women, we will get the answer — 'is this approach the best approach?' — and therefore, can the Government then scale-up our approach to make those webinars and resources available across the whole of Australia?'

Cultural sensitivities are observed in the training materials, and Associate Professor Gould said that helped build trust.

'We're talking to women, giving them accurate, factual messages, but in a way that's delivered by people they would trust,' she said. 'We've developed the whole approach with Aboriginal medical services, and we've had Aboriginal investigators on our team guiding us and working very closely with us.'

The study is set to last until 2021, and Associate Professor Gould was optimistic the approach would help reduce rates of smoking.

Source: ABC News


Last updated: 26 September 2017
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute