Mr Justin Mohamed, Chair of NACCHO, the national authority in Aboriginal primary health care, representing over 150 plus Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations today welcomed the moves by the Commonwealth Government to step up anti-smoking momentum of a national campaign aimed at high risk groups such as pregnant women and Aboriginal communities and further called on NACCHO members to support the initiative
“These five national television “Quit for You, Quit for Two “campaign ads, social media and two innovative quit smoking smartphone apps announced over the weekend maybe culturally appropriate and targeted to specific groups such as pregnant Aboriginal women (fifty per cent of whom who smoke) and their partners, but at the end of the day these campaigns will only work if we have culturally appropriate well funded community based health support programs in place “Mr Mohamed said.
“When we talk about key factors in our Close the Gap Campaign for Indigenous Health Equality tobacco smoking is the single greatest preventable cause of premature death amongst Aboriginal people, impacting on the health of individuals and contributing to the devastation of our communities. It accounts for one out of every five (20%) of deaths among Aboriginal Australians and for 17% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.Tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease account for one third of all deaths’’ Mr Mohamed said.
Mr Mohamed explained it is important to understand that smoking is not a single issue for Aboriginal people but is interwoven with other factors such as poverty, low levels of education, lack of employment opportunities, poor nutrition, disempowerment and stress.
“In many Aboriginal communities where stress is a lived daily reality it is therefore not surprising that smoking rates remain high especially with the unemployed and that children are exposed to smoking behavior, “Mr Mohamed said.
“The efforts of hard-working staff across Aboriginal Community Controlled Health as the primary vehicle , to addressthedepth and the complexity of health issues facing our communities, is inspirational but they are battling to Close the Gap within a generation if the governments at all levels do not address the wide range of social issues faced by many Aboriginal Australians.”
“Our NACCHO Talking about the Smokes (TATS) research partner Menzies School of Health Research this week published in the Medical Journal Australia a study that found that the number of Aboriginal smokers who smoked more that 20 cigarettes a day declined from 17% in 1994 to 9.4 % in 2008 –a relative 45% reduction. These are very positive trends but we have a long way to go Close the Gap”
“If we are to Close the Gap current evidence would suggest the best form intervention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is to invest in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services with bottom up approach, partnership that works in collaboration with such services.” Mr Mohamed said
Mr Mohamed called on governments both Commonwealth and State to follow through on their commitments in supporting Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and the Close the Gap chronic disease initiatives.
National Communications and Media Advisor