Supporting remote health workers to tackle Indigenous smoking

  • Tackling Indigenous Smoking logo over a cigarette butt
Ashleigh Parnell
Edith Cowan University
Ashleigh Parnell,
Senior Research Officer, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) website is an important resource in the effort to reduce smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. TIS workers from across Australia can use the website to access, all in one place, best practice information and evidence about the population health promotion activities that work for reducing smoking rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Within the TIS program, 22 of the 40 regional tobacco control grant-funded TIS teams deliver activities to areas that are classified as either remote or very remote.

Smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have reduced significantly in recent years, with adult daily smoking rates down from 50 per cent in 2004–05 to 40 per cent in 2018–19. However, this progress has not been consistent across regions. While positive improvements have been made in urban areas, there has been little change in rates of daily smoking among Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people living in remote or very remote areas. For this reason, reducing the prevalence of tobacco use in remote areas is a priority for the TIS program. In 2019, the coverage of the TIS program was expanded to include the Tiwi Islands, Torres Strait Islands, Katherine township and surrounds, and remote communities near Alice Springs.

The TIS website is maintained by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (HealthInfoNet) based at Edith Cowan University. The HealthInfoNet is one element of the National Best Practice Unit for Tackling Indigenous Smoking (NBPU TIS), a consortium led by Ninti One Ltd and including the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra. The role of the NBPU TIS is to provide tailored, evidence-based support to the TIS workforce. The TIS website plays an in important role in this process, as it contains: up-to-date research and information relating to tobacco control in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; resources for teams to use to monitor and evaluate their TIS activities; and links to relevant training opportunities for TIS workers, such as Quitskills for Maternal Health Workers in Remote Communities.

To support the remote TIS workforce, the NBPU TIS recently hosted a two-day online workshop. The workshop provided an opportunity for the 22 remote service teams and experts in the field of tobacco control to share ideas with each other and hear examples of best practice in areas such as developing partnerships, social media, co-designing resources for TIS, and monitoring and evaluation. Attendees also discussed the different strengths and challenges associated with delivering population health promotion approaches for tobacco control in remote settings. Participants heard from National TIS Coordinator, Professor Tom Calma AO, who highlighted the importance of expanding the program to cover more of remote Australia, while also acknowledging the great work already happening. To ensure that this important information remained accessible to the remote TIS workforce beyond the workshop, the presentations have been made available on the TIS website.

To help the TIS workforce stay connected to each other, the NBPU TIS established a National TIS Workers Yarning Group on Facebook. The Yarning Group provides a culturally safe platform for TIS workers from around the country to connect with their peers to share ideas and seek advice or feedback about their TIS activities. This is especially important for TIS workers who deliver activities in remote areas who, while being geographically isolated, can still connect and exchange information with other TIS workers from around Australia.

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