Smoking kills more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and puts more in hospital than all the other preventable illnesses put together. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoke at much higher rates than non-Indigenous Australians, and not many are quitting.
The problem is being tackled by Indigenous Australians in remote communities, in a project called BOABS: Be Our Ally, Beat Smoking. The results of the BOABS study were published in BMC Public Health recently: BMC Public Health 2014; 14:32.
One of the Aboriginal women working on BOABS, Tracey Kitaura, said the difference in smoking rates is growing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. "We need better ways to reduce smoking rates amongst our people and we need more trained Aboriginal researchers," Mrs Kitaura said.
Associate Professor Julia Marley, from The University of Western Australia-affiliated Rural Clinical School of Western Australia, and Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council, is one of BOABS' lead researchers.
"As part of this study we developed a local program (Outreach) designed to provide intensive support to 166 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers looking to quit or cut down," Associate Professor Marley said.
"We found that 11% of the outreach group had quit smoking at 12 months - more than twice the quit rate of the group who received usual clinic care. A meta-analysis of these findings and a comparable study of pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants assigned to the intervention groups were 2.4 times as likely to quit as participants assigned to usual care."
BOABS showed that culturally appropriate, multi-dimensional Indigenous quit smoking programs can be successfully implemented in remote primary health care. Intensive one-on-one interventions with substantial involvement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers are likely to be effective in these settings.
BOABS was a joint project between the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council, The Rural Clinical School of Western Australia, Derby Aboriginal Health Service and Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service.