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Closing the Gap on smoking in pregnant Aboriginal women


Media and Content team
17 March 2022

A new Southern Cross University project is closing the gap on tobacco use in pregnancy, with a tailored program designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The program supports a new Closing the Gap target to increase the number of babies born at a healthy weight by 2031. Tobacco smoking is the major contributor to low birthweight in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and although many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are motivated to quit smoking during pregnancy, there are challenges to achieve this.

iSISTAQUIT is a model of care designed with culturally appropriate and national best practice training. The program provides training for health professionals using the ABCD approach – Ask; Brief advice; Cessation; Discuss the psychosocial context – to incorporate an assessment of the social determinants of a patient’s health. It also includes community outreach to promote the quit smoking message.

Having culturally thought-out approaches and a pathway of support helps Indigenous women navigate health and wellbeing systems safely, said Aboriginal Obstetrician and Southern Cross University Academic Adviser Dr Marilyn Clarke.

“Women are more likely to be interested in quitting while pregnant, but if health professionals are not familiar with how to adapt their consultations to be culturally appropriate, then it can be a further challenge for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” said Dr Clarke.

iSISTAQUIT is a blended model of community support and traditional cessation treatment by general practitioners and other health professionals, with 23 sites nationally now participating in the training.

 “Through our research we found there are three main things we need to address to really make a difference to the numbers of Aboriginal women who smoke during pregnancy.

“These are clinician training; better access to oral forms of nicotine replacement therapy; and specific health promotion messages to address the challenges Indigenous women face when quitting,” said Southern Cross University Professor Gillian Gould, lead investigator and GP.

iSISTAQUIT has launched a national social media campaign, in consultation with Gilimbaa Creative Agency, Indigenous X, an advisory committee and through community consultations, to promote the iSISTAQUIT training for health professionals and to share advice and benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to quit smoking and join the Smoke-Free Sistahood. The campaign supports women on the quit journey to not feel alone and can increase the chances of becoming, and staying, smoke-free.

iSISTAQUIT training opportunities are open to health practitioners and health service providers.

More information or follow the project on Facebook or Twitter