Quit-smoking trial for Indigenous mums-to-be

Oct 21 2016

Professor Billie Bonevski

Aboriginal communities across Australia will benefit from a $2.26 million national grant awarded to University of Newcastle (UON) public health researchers for a culturally competent smoking cessation program focused on the health and wellbeing of pregnant Aboriginal women.

The pilot study, called ‘Indigenous Counselling and Nicotine (ICAN) QUIT in Pregnancy’, was developed in collaboration with health service providers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and led to high levels of engagement with expectant mothers.

With a four-year funding package announced yesterday under the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) scheme, the team led by Professor Billie Bonevski and Dr Gillian Gould will now collaborate with a larger group of around 30 Aboriginal health care providers around the nation. 

“In Australia we have declining rates of smoking among pregnant women in general – the rate is currently around 10% – but with Aboriginal women the rate is up around 40% and there has been no decline,” Professor Bonevski said.

“A lot of tobacco control measures in Australia have, until recently, been targeted at non-Aboriginal Australians whereas the (ICAN) QUIT in Pregnancy resources have been specifically developed to be a health promotion platform for Aboriginal communities as they draw on the knowledge and expertise of the community.

“They are grounded in culturally appropriate material and Aboriginal people deliver the smoking cessation support. From a cultural perspective this is very important.

“During the pilot study our resources were pre-tested with Aboriginal women, elders and health professionals in three States and received very favorable responses because conventional tobacco control materials just aren’t picked up.”

The NHMRC grant will enable researchers to provide full training and resources to staff at half of the health services involved in the trial, with the other half serving as a control group so that program outcomes can be effectively evaluated.

Under the trial, health data such as baby birth weight and lung health will also be collected by Professor Jorge Mattes and Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM from the UON’s GrowUpWell and Mothers and Babies research centres to highlight the benefit of quitting for the newborn child.

Professor Bonevski and Dr Gould research in conjunction with HMRI’s Public Health program. Pilot research was funded by the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance and the NSW Ministry for Health. Dr Gould also has fellowship funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Institute of NSW.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.