Tailored support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers to quit smoking and improve family health

Jul 1 2020

A significant grant awarded to a Hunter researcher will fund a first-of-its kind program to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers to quit smoking when their partner is pregnant, or if they have young children at home.  

Research Associate with the University’s School of Medicine and Public Health and HMRI affiliated researcher, Dr Parivash Eftekhari, said the more than $600,000 for Partners and Paternal Aboriginal Smokers' (PAPAS) project would be key in improving children’s health by supporting fathers to have smoke-free homes. “In my as an Aboriginal health researcher for the last two and a half years, I’ve had the privilege of being embedded in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to investigate what motivates people to quit smoking,” Dr Eftekhari said.

“Research has shown that, despite successes with smoking cessation programs tailored for mothers, the outcomes are much better if everyone in the house quits at the same time. If their partner still smokes, not only is second-hand smoke still a risk for the unborn baby, but the visual cue is also an incentive for younger children to pick up a cigarette,” she said.

Funded by the Department of Health’s Indigenous Australians' Health Programme, Dr Eftekhari will develop a new program specifically for fathers, from concept to implementation, working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across NSW and QLD.  “The first step is knowing what men’s attitudes are toward taking control of their family’s health, and what approaches they prefer in achieving this,” she said. “It’s something that can’t be a one size fits all approach – we know that developing something for people without first embedding ourselves in the community to determine exactly how they use support services doesn’t work, especially for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Factors like culture, belief, support system, lifestyle and history are all important in how to approach a change in health behaviour. “The work will be tailored to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure we’re providing them with exactly what they need and taking the right approach for this to work.” The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Janet Nelson, said the PAPAS program was a strong example of the University’s commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of people here in our regions. “This award will support development of novel interventions to ensure all our communities, in particular First Nations peoples, have better health outcomes for themselves and their families.

I look forward to the outcomes of this important work,” Professor Nelson said. HMRI Director, Professor Tom Walley, acknowledged the importance of developing culturally appropriate programs for better health outcomes.  
“It’s wonderful to see the growth in programs has come through Aboriginal and Torres Strait community-led initiatives,” Professor Walley said.  “Dr Eftekhari’s work with key smoking cessation programs has enabled her to collaborate with communities to identify issues and create programs to positively enact change.”