Smoking Rates Among Pregnant Indigenous Women Tackled in Major Research Project

September 25, 2017

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

In 2014 it was reported 45 per cent of surveyed Indigenous mothers smoked during pregnancy, compared to 13 per cent 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 Indigenous women smoking while pregnant.

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“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.”

Big role for digital resources

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 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.

Project aiming to give health workers effective tools

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 Indigenous 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.”

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